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Professor of Caucasian Studies 
University of London 



Director, Institute of Manuscripts 
Georgian Academy of Sciences, Tbilisi 




Was Barlaam truly Josaphat, 

And Buddha truly each? 

What better parable than that 
The unity to preach — 

The simple brotherhood of souls 
That seek the highest good; 

He who in kingly chariot rolls. 

Or wears the hermit’s hood ! 

The Church mistook ? These heathen once 
Among her Saints to range ! 

That deed of some diviner dunce 
Our wisdom would not change. 

For Culture’s Pantheon they grace 
In catholic array. 

Each Saint hath had his hour and place, 

But now ’tis All Saints’ Day. 


October 27, 1895 


In the literary world of mediaeval Christendom, few worthies 
were more celebrated than the Indian hermit Barlaam and his 
royal pupil Prince Josaphat, who were supposed between them 
to have converted India to Christianity at some vaguely defined 
period of historical antiquity. The Churches celebrated their 
festival days with appropriate solemnity, and their relics were 
invested with exceptional healing power. In 1571, for instance, 
the Doge of Venice presented King Sebastian of Portugal with 
what purported to be a bone and part of the spine of St Josaphat, 
which later found their way to the cloister of St Salvator in 
Antwerp. Shakespeare adapted one of the holy Barlaam’s fables 
for the episode of the Three Caskets in The Merchant of Venice, 
while Jesuit priests made the story the subject of edifying 
morality plays. 

The practical influence of the story of Barlaam and Josaphat 
is inestimable, extending over many centuries and many coun- 
tries. Its advocacy of the ascetic way of life and renunciation of 
the worlcf inspired the mediaeval Albigensian heretics, to such 
an extent that the work has sometimes been taken to be a Cathar 
document. Equally striking is the story’s impact on the great 
Leo Tolstoy, as recounted in his own Confession. Among the 
influences which determined Tolstoy to turn his back on wealth, 
fame and even his own family, that of the Buddha’s Great 
Renunciation was among the most compelling. Not only does 
Tolstoy relate in his Confession some of the episodes of the 
Bodhisattva Prince’s Renunciation, including the Four Omens, 
but he even quotes verbatim from the book of Barlaam and 
Josaphat one of the most effective of the fables whereby 
Barlaam (Balahvar in the Georgian text) seeks to demonstrate 
the valueless nature of human life on earth. 

There is an Eastern fable, told long ago, of a traveller over- 
taken on a plain by an enraged beast. Escaping from the beast he 


gets into a dry well, but sees at the bottom of the well a dragon 
that has opened its jaws to engulf him. And the unfortunate 
man, not daring to climb out lest he should be destroyed by the 
enraged beast, and not daring to leap to the bottom of the well 
lest he should be swallowed by the dragon, seizes a twig growing 
in a crack in the well and clings to it. His hands are growing 
weaker and he feels he will soon have to resign himself to the 
destruction that awaits him above or below, but still he clings 
on. Then he sees that two mice, one black and the other white, 
go regularly round and round the stalk to which he is clinging 
and gnaw at it. And soon the twig itself will snap and he will 
fall into the dragon’s jaws. 

‘The traveller sees this and knows that he must inevitably 
perish : but while still hanging he looks around, sees some drops 
of honey on the leaves of the twig, reaches them with his tongue 
and licks at them. — So I too clung to the twig of life, knowing 
that the dragon of death was inexorably awaiting me, ready to 
tear me to pieces : and I could not understand why I had fallen 
into such torment. I tried to lick the honey which formerly 
consoled me, but the honey no longer gave me pleasure, and the 
white and black mice of day and night gnawed at the branch by 
which I hung. I saw the dragon clearly and the honey no longer 
tasted sweet. I only saw the dragon from which there was no 
escape, and the mice, and I could not tear my gaze from them. 
And this is not a fable, but the real unanswerable truth, 
intelligible to all ! ’ 

I must here express thanks to my Californian friend Mr Tom 
Foley, who drew this remarkable passage to my attention : the 
full text of the fable, taken from the Old Georgian version, 
appears on pages 77-78 of the present volume. 

In spite of striking similarities between the pious career of 
St Josaphat and the traditional lives of Gautama Buddha, it was 
not until a century ago that the authenticity of this Christian 
cult was challenged, and definite proof produced to show that 
Barlaam and Josaphat were not early Christian saints at all, but 
legendary figures whose image was based on ancient Indian 
stories about the Bodhisattva prince and his Great Renunciation. 
Since that time, a large number of articles and books have been 
devoted to comparative study and analysis of the many versions 
of the Barlaam and Josaphat story which survive in virtually all 



countries of Christendom from Iceland to Ethiopia, from Poland 
to the Philippines. Even today, traces of the legend crop up in 
unexpected places. For example, the Ahmadi sect in Islam have 
created a legend that a certain holy man named Yuz Asaf, whom 
they identify with Our Lord Jesus Christ, came to Kashmir and 
died there; in reality, the whole Ahmadi story of ‘Yuz Asaf’, as 
I have tried to show in a previous study, is simply based on an 
extract from the familiar Arabic version of the Barlaam and 
Josaphat romance, and has no connection with the life of Jesus 
Christ at all. 1 

In face of all this evidence of the diffusion of the Buddha’s 
legendary life story and spiritual heritage throughout Christen- 
dom by the medium of the Barlaam and Josaphat legend, it is 
surprising to find writers on comparative religion who continue 
to devote entire volumes to listing the coincidental resemblances 
between Buddhism and Christianity, but without making any 
reference to Barlaam and Josaphat whatever. 2 

We should always bear in mind that the Barlaam and Josaphat 
romance is not a direct translation of any Indian original, but 
* represents the result of a long migration of the life story and 
teaching of the Buddha through several different religious and 
cultural environments, until the work took on its final Christian 
shape and colouring. A particularly important role in this migra- 
tion was played by the Manichaeans of Central Asia, and 
Arabic writers of Baghdad in the epoch of Harun al-Rashid. I 
have myself attempted to trace these eastern origins of the 
Barlaam and Josaphat legend in some separate articles, listed in 
the bibliography at the end of this volume, as well as in the 
introduction to my earlier book, The Wisdom of Balafivar ; A 
Christian Legend of the Buddha (London: George Allen & 
Unwin; New York : The Macmillan Company, 1957). This work 
aroused interest in several countries; comments and suggestions 
were made which have been taken into account in the prepara- 
tion of this new translation. However, no new evidence has been 
produced which would alter the main lines of my conclusions 

*D. M. Lang, The Wisdom of Balafivar: A Christian Legend of the Buddha, 
London, Allen & Unwin, 1957, Postscript, pp. 129.30: 'Mr Graves, Mr Podro 
and the Kashmir Shrine’. 

1 The latest work of this category is Winston L, King’s Buddhism and 
Christianity. Some Bridges of Understanding, London, Allen & Unwin, 1963. 



relating to the tale's transmission through Central Asia, the 
Arab world, and the Caucasus. Indeed, these conclusions have 
been strongly confirmed by the remarkable discovery by Pro- 
fessor W. B. Henning and Dr Mary Boyce of two ancient manu- 
script fragments, bearing extracts of a Persian poetic version of 
the story of Bilauhar and Budisaf (Barlaam and Josaphat), which 
bids fair to be the most venerable specimen of Classical Persian 
poetry known to us. Professor Henning has also drawn attention 
to the Manichaean ideas reflected in Bilauhar's teachings about 
prophets and their role in the revelation of eternal truth, as 
contained in the Arabic versions and faithfully reflected in the 
Christian Georgian adaptation. 1 (See particularly chapter Z2 of 
the text, below.) 

It is one of the many remarkable features of the Barlaam and 
Josaphat legend that one of the vital links in its passage from 
East to West is to be sought in the literary world of mediaeval 
Georgia, a Christian kingdom in the Caucasus which had served 
since the fourth century as a bastion of Christendom among the 
Infidels. The Georgians, who took the story direct from the 
Arabs, were apparently the first to give it a specifically Christian 
flavour. Theirs was the first Christian Church to include St 
Iodasaph — in reality the Bodhisattva prince of India — in the 
number of its saints and celebrate his festival with hymns and 
anthems, dating back to the tenth and eleventh centuries. But 
for the existence of this Georgian version, and the translation 
work of St Euthymius the Georgian (955-1028) on Mount Athos, 
the story might never have been rendered into Greek at all, nor 
reached the readers who enjoyed it in so many of the other 
tongues of mediaeval Christendom. 

The authorities of UNESCO have now included this Georgian 
version of the legend of Barlaam and Josaphat in their series of 
translations of classic works from the literatures of non-Russian 
nations of the Soviet Union. The text used is the new and much 
more complete version discovered in manuscript form in Jerusa- 
lem and edited in 1957 by my colleague Ilia Abuladze, Director 
of the Institute of Manuscripts of the Academy of Sciences of 
the Georgian S.S.R., Tbilisi. Professor Abuladze has been engaged 

1 See W. B. Henning, Tersian poetical manuscripts from the time of Rudaki’, 
in A Locust’s Leg : Studies in honour of S. H. Taqizadeh, London, 1962, 
pp. 89-98. 



for many years in the study of the Georgian Barlaam and 
Josaphat romance and produced a critical edition of the abridged 
version, known as The Wisdom of Balahvar, as long ago as 1937. 
He was the first among Soviet scholars to evaluate the true 
significance of the new Jerusalem text, on which he worked for 
a time independently of myself. A Russian translation of the 
book, published at Tbilisi in 1962, was edited by him. He has 
now contributed a prefatory essay for this English translation; 
this essay I have translated into English with a few slight modi- 
fications for the benefit of English-speaking readers. I also have 
to thank Professor Gerard Garitte of the University of Louvain 
who checked the work carefully in typescript and pointed out 
several errors and omissions. 

It is a source of deep personal pleasure to me that Ilia 
Abuladze and I have now been enabled to join forces in present- 
ing to the Western public a work which illustrates to a unique 
degree the many common features which exist in Buddhism and 
Christianity, as well as throwing light on the evolution of 
asceticism and ascetic ideals among the Manichaeans, the Arabs 
and the Byzantine and Georgian Christians. 

While this book was already in the press, news was received 
from Soviet Georgia of the recovery of yet another manuscript 
version of the Georgian Balavariani, this time in verse. The new 
text was found quite by chance in the Ratcha district, hidden in 
the trunk of a venerable yew tree, and has been described by 
Professor Giorgi Tsereteli in volume 108 of the Works of Tbilisi 
State University. The manuscript is relatively modern, dating 
from the eighteenth century, and adds little to our knowledge 
of the text. But the discovery is valuable as further evidence of 
the vitality and wide appeal of this truly remarkable story. 

David Marshall Lang 

School of Oriental and African Studies 
University of London 
Loudon, W.C.i 



PREFACE P a g e 9 


The Origins and History of ‘BalavarianT and its Place 
among the Treasures of World Literature 19 




book I : The Life of the Blessed Iodasaph, Son of Abenes, 
King of India, -whom the Blessed Father and Teacher 

Balahvar converted 53 

BOOK II: Concerning the Arrival of our Holy and Blessed 
Father Balahvar, who converted the King’s Son to the 
Religion of Christ 7 1 

Fable the First : The Trumpet of Death: The Four Caskets 73 
Fable the Second: The Sower 76 

Fable the Third : The Man and the Elephant 77 

Fable the Fourth : The Man and his Three Friends 78 

Fable the Fifth: The King for One Year 81 

Fable the Sixth : Dogs and Carrion 83 

Fable the Seventh : Physician and Patient 84 

Fable the Eighth : The Sun of Wisdom 86 

Fable the Ninth : The King and the Happy Poor Couple 90 

Fable the Tenth: The Rich Youth and the Poor Maiden 93 

Fable the Eleventh : The Fowler and the Nightingale 96 

Fable the Twelfth: The Tatne Gazelle 112 

Fable the Thirteenth : The Costume of Enemies 115 


BOOK hi : The Life and Ministry of the Blessed Iodasaph, 
the King's Son, whom the Holy Father Balahvar con- 
verted, and who converted his father King Abenes and 

the Land of India to the Service of Christ izi 

Fable the Fourteenth : The A morons Wife 142 

Fable the Fifteenth: The Youth who had never seen a 
Woman 144 



INDEX 185 



I Iodasaph meets the old man facing page 80 

Balahvar reveals himself to Iodasaph 

ii The Trumpet of Death 81 

The Fable of the Four Caskets 
The Man and the Unicorn 

in The Nightingale and the bird catcher 96 

The Baptism, of Iodasaph. 

King Abenes and the Ascetics 

iv Theudas acknowledging Christ 97 

Iodasaph in the desert 


All but three of the illustrations are from a Greek manuscript, 
Iviron 463, preserved on Mount Athos. The picture of the Man 
and the Unicorn is from Greek Ms. 338 of King’s College, Cam- 
bridge; note that the Unicorn here replaces the Elephant, which 
features in Fable 3 of the Georgian version. These photographs 
were generously supplied by Professor Sirarpie Der Nersessian, 
author of an important work on the illustrations of the Barlaam 
romance, by kind courtesy of the Collection chretienne et byzan- 
tine of the Iicole des Hautes fitudes, Paris. 

The pictures of Balahvar revealing himself to Iodasaph, and 
King Abenes and the Ascetics, are taken from a Christian 
Arabic manuscript, No. B5/5 of the Monastery of Deir al-Shir, 
15 miles from Beirut, Lebanon. These were first published by 
Father Jules Leroy in the journal Syria, 1955, and are reproduced 
here by his kind permission. 

The photograph on the dust jacket shows the eleventh century 
church of Nikordsminda, in the Ratcha district of Georgia, and 
was kindly supplied by Professor V. Beridze of Tbilisi, to whom 
thanks are expressed. 







‘Balavariani’ is the Georgian name for the extremely popular 
early mediaeval work which circulated widely in the East and in 
the West, and is known in Greek literature under the title ‘The 
Life of Barlaam and Ioasaph ’. 1 * * * This hagiographical work relates 
the feats of its two main heroes, Barlaam and Ioasaph (in 
Georgian : Balahvar and Iodasaph), and their efforts in the cause 
of India’s conversion to Christianity. 

Many works of hagiography tell the story of champions of 
the Christian religion who lived at a definite point of time, 
and in concrete historical circumstances. Such works usually 
possess a definite value for the study of the history of a given 
country. However, when we come to examine Balavariani from 
this standpoint, we discover that the history of India contains 
no such description of the country’s conversion to Christianity 
as that given in our narrative. A detailed study of the romance 
shows that it is based on a freely adapted version of one of the 
accounts of the legendary life story of the Buddha 5 — a book 
created within India itself. Consequently, before taking on the 
aspect of a work of hagiography, our Balavariani had a long path 
to travel. 

It was no mere coincidence which led to the selection of a 
particular version of the life story of the Buddha, probably the 
Lalita-vistara, for adaptation in the form of a work of hagiography 

1 First published at Paris in 1831 by J. F. Boissonade, Anecdota Graeco, 

tom. rv. From this edition, it was reprinted in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, tom. 
xcvi, pp. 859-1240, and also in the Loeb Classical Library, London, New York, 


1 See Istoriya russfeoi Uteratury (‘History of Russian literature’), tom. 1 
(Literature of the tenth to eighteenth centuries), compiled and edited by the 

Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1958, p. 39. 



after it had already passed through various different cultural, 
religious and social environments. The selection of such a source 
as the basis for a work of Christian literature was justified by 
the fact that the life and teaching of the Buddha have a number 
of points of resemblance to the life and teaching of Christ. 

Before being recast as a work of hagiography, the Indian 
legend went through several phases of evolution. With the dis- 
covery of several episodes and fables in Manichaean manuscript 
fragments from Central Asia (written in Iranian and Old 
Turkish), it has become an established fact that the Buddha 
legend was well known in Iran. In this new environment, it 
must indisputably have undergone fresh modification. 

It has been conjectured that in the next stage, at the period 
of the Iranian renaissance under King Khusrau Anushirvan 
(531-79), the legend was readapted in the Pehlevi language. In 
support of this, scholars have cited allusions and references in 
Arabic books of a later period, as well as translations into other 
languages possibly made from this lost version. 1 It has also been 
conjectured that at this same period, namely the sixth to seventh 
centuries A.D., the prototype of the Barlaam and Josaphat legend 
was translated from the Pehlevi version into Syriac. Certain 
cultural and historical evidence has led another scholar to the 
view that the first Christian recension of Balavariani was 
created during the seventh century in Syriac at the Nestorian 
capital of India, on the basis of a Pehlevi version of the life story 
of Buddha. 2 

It is further assumed that the Balavariani was at some stage 
translated from the Pehlevi into Arabic. The appearance of this 
translation is ascribed to the period of the first ‘Abbasid caliphs, 
namely the eighth and ninth centuries A.D., when the country’s 
cultural efflorescence was accompanied by the revival of litera- 
ture in Arabic, both translations and original works. Confirma- 

1 See I. Yu. Krachkovsky’s introduction to Povest’ o Varlaame pustynnike i 
Iosafc ts areviche indiiskom (‘Story of Varlaam the hermit and Iosaf the Indian 
prince'), translated from the Arabic by Baron V. R. Rosen, Moscow, 1947, 
pp. 7-8. 

’ This theory was once advanced by the late Professor K. S. Kekelidze : see 
his essay ‘Balavaris romani k'ristianul mdserlobashi' (‘The Balavar romance in 
Christian literature’), reprinted in Etiudebi dzveli h‘art‘ul< literaturis istoriidan 
(‘Studies in the history of Ancient Georgian literature’), vol. VI, Tbilisi, 1960, 
pp. 44-46. 



tion of this is provided by a writer of the second half of the tenth 
century, Abu’l-Faraj al-Nadim by name, author of a biblio- 
graphical treatise called Kitob d-Fihrist, which gives a list of 
works of Indian literary origin, naming among them a ‘Book 
about Bilauhar and Budasaf’, and a separate and distinct ‘Book 
of Budasaf by himself. No early manuscripts of these two works, 
as translated from Pehlevi into Arabic, have yet come to light. 
The only version which has come down to us is the Book of 
Bilauhar and Budasaf, published for the first time in litho- 
graphed form at Bombay in 1889. It is only by means of this 
edition, as well as by a defective Muslim Arabic text published 
earlier by F. Hommel, that we can arrive at any conclusions 
relating to the early Arabic version of Balavartaui when this 
work still bore a close relationship to its original source. There 
has also been preserved in Arabic another version of the Barlaam 
romance, which, as H. Zotenberg demonstrated in 1886, is a 
translation of the Greek recension of the Life, dating from a 
comparatively late period and made in an Arabic-speaking 
Christian environment. 

None of the earliest surviving manuscript copies of the Greek 
‘Life of Barlaam and Ioasaph’ is older than the eleventh century. 
At least 140 other copies dating from later centuries have also 
been preserved. A Latin version, translated from the Greek in 
1048, has reached us in a manuscript of the fourteenth century. 
The books about Barlaam and Josaphat in other European lan- 
guages all derive without exception from either the Greek or the 
Latin, or are the product of translations made from these two 
languages. The Armenian ‘Life of Barlaam and Ioasaph', the 
oldest copy of which dates from the year 1322, was also trans- 
lated from the Greek. 


Since 1886, when the French scholar Zotenberg initiated the 
critical study of the Greek ‘Story of Barlaam and Ioasaph', many 
specialists have turned their attention towards Georgian litera- 
ture. Their interest was attracted in the first instance by the fact 
that the headings of certain Greek manuscripts describe the 
book as having been translated from the Georgian language into 



Greek, with the further indication that the work of translation 
was done by Euthymius the Georgian (Iberian). Although 
Zotenberg and other Western European scholars of the last cen- 
tury did not consider this piece of information to be reliable, 
none the less it played a useful part in arousing interest in 
Georgian mediaeval literature and particularly in stimulating a 
search for Georgian manuscripts of Balavariani. 

A whole group of Russian Orientalists, headed by the well- 
known Arabic scholar V. R. Rosen, joined in the study of the 
Balavariani problem. V. R. Rosen forthwith invited his pupil 
N. Y. Marr to participate in these scholarly researches. Marr 
endorsed his teacher’s hypothesis, who considered it possible 
that the Greek version was translated from an Old Georgian text 
and postulated in addition that the Georgian version of 
Balavariani had its roots in the Syriac, and embarked with great 
zeal on the search for Balavariani manuscripts. His efforts were 
soon crowned with success: he discovered one of these manu- 
scripts and published excerpts from it in 1889, under the title 
‘The Wisdom of Balavar, a Georgian version of the Edifying 
Story of Barlaam and loasaph’. It is true that Rosen’s theory was 
not entirely confirmed by the publication of this, nor was the 
Georgian text generally accepted as the prototype of the Greek 
version; from another standpoint, however, as Rosen pointed 
out, it meant that ‘the possibility that this famous story pene- 
trated into Georgian literature via the Syriac can scarcely be 
definitely ruled out at this stage’. 1 

Soon after N. Y. Marr’s discovery of a Georgian manuscript 
copy of Balavariani, the heading of which gives the story’s title 
as The Wisdom of Balavar', other manuscripts also came to 
light. On the basis of these, the historian E. T'aqaishvili pub- 
lished the first edition of The Wisdom of Balavar as a separate 
book in 1895. To make the romance more widely available in 
scholarly circles, it was translated into Russian by I. A. 
Javakhishvili and published in 1899. 

With the publication of these Russian and Georgian materials, 

1 V. R(osen): Review of N. Y. Marr’s edition of the ‘Life of Peter the 
Iberian’, Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniya. etc., St Petersburg, tom x, fasc. 1-4, 
p. 201. Baron Rosen considered that the Syriac origins of the ‘Life of Peter the 
Iberian’ confirmed his previously expressed view that The Wisdom of Balavar 
likewise derived from the Syriac. This opinion, incidentally, was also received 
favourably by Fr. Homme] in 1890. 



the study of Balavariani gradually took on greater depth and 
breadth. Unremitting efforts were made to discover new texts. 
Both in Georgia and abroad, new manuscripts in the Georgian 
language were found, deriving from an even earlier period than 
those already known. Among the copies discovered within 
Georgia, the very earliest, which has survived only in fragmen- 
tary form, can be ascribed on palaeographic grounds to the 
twelfth or thirteenth centuries. This variant has been twice pub- 
lished, first by A. Khakhanov, and then by Mose Janashvili. 
Complete texts of The Wisdom of Balavar, dating from the six- 
teenth to the eighteenth centuries, weie also found. On the basis 
of these manuscripts, the second edition of The Wisdom of 
Balavar was prepared and published by Ilia Abuladze in 1937. 

Copies of Balavariani were also discovered beyond the borders 
of Georgia, namely in the collection of Georgian manuscripts at 
ferusalem. One of these, No. 36, attributed to the thirteenth or 
fourteenth centuries, was described by Nicholas Marr in 1902. 
Another copy of Balavariani, No. 140, consisting of two por- 
tions, was discovered by Robert Blake and described briefly in 
1925-6 together with the manuscript discovered earlier, Jer. 36. 

These Jerusalem copies became fully accessible only in 1956, 
and then, in view of their great importance, were made the basis 
for a new, third edition of the work in the Georgian language, 
under the editorship of Ilia Abuladze. (It is on this edition that 
the translation in this present volume is based.) 

Now what is the special importance of the Jerusalem manu- 
scripts of Balavariani? 

Up to 1956, no text of the Wisdom of Balavar earlier than the 
sixteenth or seventeenth century was available. The Jerusalem 
manuscript No. 36 gave scholars their first opportunity to avail 
themselves of an earlier, complete text of the shorter recension 
of The Wisdom of Balavar, dating from the thirteenth to four- 
teenth centuries. This text gives better readings of specific 
passages, and furthermore contains one passage, highly remark- 
able from a theological viewpoint, which has been omitted from 
all other copies altogether. 

Even greater significance attaches to the second Jerusalem 
manuscript of Balavariani, Jer. 140. Its primary importance con- 
sists in the fact that it represents a completely separate redaction 
which surpasses The Wisdom of Balavar both in length (it is two 


and a half times as long as the short Wisdom of Balavar), in 
antiquity (it was copied in the second half of the eleventh 
century), and, as we shall see later on, in the early date of its 


Since scholarly study of Balavariani began, and especially since 
the discovery of its Georgian version, a vital task has been to 
elucidate the mutual relationship between the two most ancient 
Christian versions— the Greek Life of Barlaam and Ioasaph and 
the Georgian Wisdom of Balavar. N. Y. Marr to begin with, and 
subsequently such well-informed scholars and specialists in 
Georgian language and literature as Father Paul Peeters, R. L. 
Wolff and others, notwithstanding the fact that the Georgian 
Wisdom of Balavar and the Greek Life of Barlaam and loasaph do 
not fully correspond textually with one another, recognized none 
the less that the Georgian work is the source of the Greek version, 
and accepted as reliable the statement given in the headings to 
certain Greek manuscripts, to the effect that Euthymius the 
Iberian had rendered the ‘Balavar’ story from Georgian into Greek. 

When they came to elucidate the characteristic features of the 
Georgian Balavariani and compare it with the Greek, scholars 
also touched on the question of the origins of the Georgian 
version itself. Parting company with N. Y. Marr’s earlier con- 
clusions, namely that traces of Syriac influence in the Wisdom 
of Balavar proved that the Georgian version derived from the 
Syriac, Father Peeters observed that the Wisdom of Balavar con- 
tained distinct traces of Arabic language influence, and con- 
sidered that the Georgian version indubitably stemmed from the 
Arabic . 1 This latter view was also supported by Professor Robert 
Lee Wolff of Harvard University. 

1 P. Peeters, ‘La premiere traduction latine de “Barlaam et Joasaph” et son 
original grec’ in Analecta Bolhndiana, xlix , 1931, pp. 303-7. It is worth noting 
that Marr himself had later admitted that the Syriac elements which he had 
detected in the Wisdom of Balavar might be accounted for in terms of Arabic 
language influence. (See Marr, ‘Agiograficheskie materialy, etc.’, pt. 2, in 
Zapiski Vostochnago Oldeleniyct, St Petersburg, tom. xirr, igoi, pp. 101-2.) 
Still later, in a book written in 1928 but published only after his death, Marr 
wrote: ‘It is a fact that it (i.e. The Wisdom of Balavar) is translated from the 
Arabic’. (N. Y. Marr, Gruzinsky yazyk, Tskhinvali, 1949, p. 26.) 



Such then were the opinions about the character and signifi- 
cance of the Georgian Wisdom of Balavar which circulated in 
scholarly circles right up to the 1950s. At that point, the 
opinions we have cited began to be questioned and even sharply 
criticized — especially the identification of Euthymius the Iberian 
as author of the Greek version — and this, naturally enough, 
provoked an equally determined defence of this latter view by 
those who held it. 

In 1953 the eminent Byzantine scholar, Professor Franz 
Dolger, published a book 1 in which he attacked these assump- 
tions and historical data according to which the Greek version of 
the Barlaam Romance stems from the Georgian and was trans- 
lated or else adapted in metaphrastic form by Euthymius the 
Georgian (Iberian), affirming that this Greek version in the form 
in which we possess it belongs to the pen of Saint John 
Damascene (c. 676-749?), as indicated, in his view, by the 
preambles of certain manuscripts of the Greek version. 

Professor Franz Dolger’s assertions, and his unwarranted 
doubt about the genuineness of the statement by St George the 
Athonite, biographer of Euthymius the Iberian, to the effect 
that Euthymius translated 'Balavar’ from Georgian into Greek, 
did not win acceptance in scholarly circles. Several specialists, 
among them F. Halkin, M. Tarkhnishvili, Shalva Nutsubidze 
and D. M. Lang, exposed the author's contradictory and ten- 
dentious mode of argument, and his lack of knowledge about the 
problems of Georgian language and literature, and criticized his 
mistaken conception of Georgian literature, which can be traced 
back to Zotenberg. One or two leading scholars, however, 
notablv Professor Henri Gregoire and Professor Gerard Garitte, 
upheld Dolger's conclusions, or at least certain of them. 

In the course of this controversy with Professor Dolger, there 
was also formulated one entirely novel and individual concep- 
tion of the origins of the Georgian version of Balavariani, which 
failed to attract much support among scholars. 2 We refer to the 
theory of Professor Shalva Nutsubidze, a member of the 

1 Franz Dolger, Der griechische Barlaam-Roman ein Werk des H. Johannes 
von Damaskos, Ettal, 1953. 

a See P. Devos, ‘Les origines du “Barlaam et Joasaph” grec. A propos de la 
these nouvelle de M. Nucubidze’, in Analecta Bollandiana, tom. lxxv, fasc. 
i-z, Bruxelles, 1957, pp. 85-104. 


Academy of Sciences of the Georgian S.S.R., according to whom 
the Georgian romance Balavariani (The Wisdom of Balavar ) is a 
literary monument of the seventh century A.D. — an original 
composition written, like the Georgian Limonarion or ‘Spiritual 
Paradise', by the Byzantine writer John Moschus. According to 
Nutsubidze’s hypothesis, the surname Moschus, in the form 
‘Meshki’, means ‘the Georgian', so that John Moschus could 
have been a Georgian bilingual author writing both in Georgian 
and in Greek. This view, with a few modifications, has also been 
espoused by Professor Simon Qaukhchishvili. 


In 1956 scholars gained access to the Jerusalem collection of 
Georgian manuscripts by the medium of microfilms made by an 
expedition sponsored by the Library of Congress. It was now 
possible to determine the precise nature of the Balavariani codex 
No. 140, which had already aroused interest when briefly 
described by Robert P. Blake in 1925-6, both because it consisted 
of two separate sections, and also because it appeared to be very 
much longer than the original Wisdom of Balavar. The present 
writer was the first person in Georgia to uncover the new text of 
Balavariani among the microfilms of the Jerusalem collection. 
During the editing of this extremely interesting text, which 
turned out to be a completely new redaction, photographic and 
manuscript copies of the work were made available also to other 
interested specialists in Old Georgian literature. The work was 
studied with lively energy, and a number of scholarly studies 
devoted to the new text were published in Georgia. In Western 
Europe, David Marshall Lang, Professor of Caucasian Studies at 
the University of London, discovered this text among the 
Jerusalem microfilms quite independently of us, and was the 
first to investigate and analyze it. The late Father Michael 
Tarkhnishvili also devoted a separate article to the new version 
and to publications connected with it. 

With the appearance of this new, full-length text of 
Balavariani, it naturally became a matter of urgent importance 
to clear up the relationship between the shorter Wisdom of 
Balavar and the new redaction. This was bound to lead to 


reappraisal of the relationship of the Georgian Balavariani 
romance to the Greek version as well as to the Arabic, a con- 
nection which had already been established by reference to the 
short Wisdom of Balavar. 

As might have been anticipated, such specialists as Professor 
Shalva Nutsubidze, who looked on the shorter Wisdom of 
Balavar as an authentic original record of an oral narrative by 
an Indian story teller, failed to attribute any great value to the 
newly discovered Balavariani text. Those scholars, on the other 
hand, to whom comparative analysis showed that the Wisdom 
of Balavar is an abridgement of the newly discovered text, set 
out afresh to tackle the main questions concerning the links 
between the longer Balavariani text and the other main 
Christian versions of the story, with particular reference to the 
Greek one, as well as the problem of the origins of the longer 
Georgian Balavariani itself. 

One of the first to discuss the new Georgian redaction of 
Balavariani was the late Professor Korneli Kekelidze, an out- 
standing historian of Georgian literature and a member of the 
Academy of Sciences of the Georgian S.S.R. In his article ‘The 
Balavar romance in Christian literature', written in 1956, 1 he 
examines first of all one of the main questions, namely : ‘When 
and in what language was the Christian version of the Barlaam 
and Ioasaph romance first elaborated, and how did it take on 
that particular form which is designated today as the Greek 
redaction ? ’ 

In Professor Kekelidze’s opinion, the first Christian version 
was composed in the Syriac tongue. This might well have 
occurred at the period when the Indian Metropolitan see of the 
Eastern Nestorian Church in company with the Persian national 
Metropolitan sees entered into a struggle with the Seleucia- 
Ctesiphon Catholicosate to secure independence for their own 
Church. In the mid-seventh century, as is well known, there was 
a proposal to create a new Catholicosate which, in order to 
justify its pretensions to rank as an independent Church, felt 
the need for a document which would establish that this Church 
possessed an Apostle of its own. It was desirable first and fore- 

1 Reprinted in K. S. Kekelidze, Etiudebi dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoriidan 
(‘Studies in the history of Ancient Georgian literature'), vol. VI, Tbilisi, i960, 
PP- 41-71. 



most to establish this by suitable literary evidence. ‘To achieve 
this purpose,’ K. S. Kekelidze wrote, ‘it was necessary first of all 
to suppress the legend of the implanting of Christianity in India 
by the Apostle Thomas, the enlightener of the Syrians.’ As a 
substitute for this tradition, a romance about St Barlaam was 
composed in the middle of the seventh century in the Syriac 
language, based on the Pehlevi redaction of the Life of Buddha, 
its underlying purpose, as would appear from the Georgian 
redactions, being ‘to prove that the enlightener of India was not 
the Apostle Thomas, but the Indian prince Ioasaph and his 
teacher Barlaam'. When this first Christian recension of the 
Story of Barlaam and Ioasaph had played its role, it was con- 
signed to oblivion and lost. Today, science has at its disposal two 
Christian adaptations of it only — the Georgian and the Greek. 

In Professor Kekelidze’s essay, the following questions are also 
discussed : (a) What is the connection between the two Georgian 
redactions? (b) What is the link between the newly discovered 
Georgian redaction and the non-Christian Arabic version? (c) 
What is the relationship between the shorter Georgian text of 
Balavariani and the Greek version? (d) What connection is there 
between the extended Georgian text of Balavariani and the 
Greek romance? 

Dealing with the connection between the two Georgian 
redactions, Professor Kekelidze points out that the Balavariani 
story as previously known, also called The Wisdom of Ralavar, 
is an abbreviated text, whereas the newly discovered redaction 
is an extended, unabridged one. The abridged text 'is in the 
main free from those lengthy and abstract dissertations on 
Christian morality and religious dogma with which the full- 
length redaction abounds’. A few of the abstract dissertations 
are given in a brief and condensed form. Both versions coincide 
in their general content, but in places the same idea is conveyed 
in different words, or is expressed by the same words rearranged 
in a different order. ‘As a result of comparing both redactions, it 
can be established that a genetic link exists between them. We 
have every reason to assume Redaction A (i.e. the short one) to 
be an abridgement of Redaction B (i.e. the long one), prepared 
for certain specific purposes.’ This work of abridgement, in 
Kekelidze’s view, was undertaken in order to adapt the story for 
use by the Church as a piece of devotional literature. 



To the question concerning the link between the full-length 
Georgian Balavariatii and the surviving Arabic non-Christian 
version. Professor Kekelidze gives the following answer : 
Generally speaking, the Georgian full-length redaction ‘takes its 
origin from an Arabic-Christian redaction, based for the most 
part on a non-Christian Arabic version deriving from the Pehlevi 
Life of Buddha', At the same time, ‘the second part of the story, 
namely the collapse of Thedma’s plot (the Arabic gives his name 
as al-Bahwan), and the conversion of King Abenes to Chris- 
tianity, 6nds no equivalent in the Arabic story. The author of 
the Christian version, evidently motivated by his different 
ideological outlook and by his desire to give the story a Christian 
flavour, altered the ending of the Arabic version and adapted it 
in his own individual manner*. In the first part of the Georgian 
Balavariani, according to Kekelidze, the author ‘faithfully fol- 
lows the Arabic text, though in this section the Arabic redaction 
is more diffuse. The Christian writer did his best to select his 
subject matter in a way consistent with his Christian outlook, 
and with this in view, he made many omissions. The general 
narrative framework, and its layout and arrangement, corres- 
pond completely in both Georgian and Arabic versions. As for 
the dogmatic and ethical aspect, and the philosophical reason- 
ings and dissertations generally, all this could obviously not be 
taken wholesale from the Arabic and incorporated in its entirety 
in a Christian story without undergoing some modification in 
the process.’ 

Leaving aside the work’s actual contents, K. S. Kekelidze 
considered that the derivation of the longer Georgian version 
from the Arabic was attested by certain traces of Arabic 
influence in vocabulary and svntax, as had already been pointed 
out in the short redaction bv N. Y. Marr. The dependence of the 
Georgian version on the Arabic, he further observed, is revealed 
by analvsis of names of characters and places occurring in the 
narrative, for instance Batahvar, coming from Arabic Bilawhar; 
lodasaph, from Arabic Budasaf; the Georgian and Arabic Rakkis 
as contrasted with the Greek form A raches; the Georgian and 
Arabic place name Sarandib (i.e. Ceylon), as contrasted with the 
Greek Senaar; and the Georgian Sholait (as the name of King 
Abenes's capital), coming from the Arabic form Shawilabat. 

As mentioned above, Professor Kekelidze considered that the 



longer redaction of Balavariani stems from a so far undiscovered 
Christian Arabic version of the romance which, in his opinion, 
could not have originated earlier than the ninth century, seeing 
that the work, ‘having been translated from Pehlevi into Arabic 
in the second half of the eighth century, could not have been 
adapted into a Christian romance prior to the ninth century’. 
This factor in turn helps to determine the date of composition of 
the full-length Georgian Balavariani, which Kekelidze regarded 
as a translation made by the Georgian colony in Palestine from 
a Christian Arabic version at the turn of the ninth to tenth 
centuries. The same scholar ascribes the short redaction to the 
end of the tenth century. 

After comparing the Georgian redactions of Balavariani with 
the Greek version, which, like the Georgian full-length version, 
retains Arabic elements in its subject matter, as well as 
accurately reproducing the conclusion of the Georgian story and 
showing a resemblance between the forms of the proper names, 
Professor Kekelidze concluded that the Greek redaction was 
based on the Georgian redaction of Balavariani, and what is 
more* on the newly-discovered, full-length version. 

The same authority concluded that the Greek redaction is far 
from being a literal translation from the Georgian, but has 
rather been elaborated after the metaphrastic style of hagio- 
graphy, with all its characteristic features. From a straight- 
forward translation made by Euthymius the Athonite, it may 
well have been adapted by the very founder of the metaphrastic 
school of hagiography, namely Simeon Logothetes, surnamed the 
Metaphrast, who flourished during the tenth and eleventh 

* * * # 

In 1957, when preparing for publication the newly discovered 
text of the Balavariani romance (Jer. 140), along with a parallel 
edition of the text of the shorter Wisdom of Balavar in the 
previously known abridged version, the present writer naturally 
had occasion to weigh up certain historical and literary problems 
connected with these writings. Investigation convinced us too 
that of these two versions, the one handed down in the unique 
manuscript dating from the second half of the eleventh century 



(Jer. 140) represents the complete and unabridged form of the 
work, while all other texts, manuscript copies of which date 
from various times between the twelfth and the eighteenth 
centuries, contain an abridged version consisting of selections 
from the original, longer redaction, partly adapted and re- 
written. When shortening the text, the mediaeval editor set 
himself the task of describing more concisely the life story and 
acts of Balavar and Iodasaph as pioneers in the spreading of 
Christianity, giving prominence to the action of the tale, and 
cutting down the abstract and long-winded moral discourses. 

The text of the abbreviated version contains linguistic features 
not met with in Georgian before the end of the eleventh century. 
This seems in fact to be the period when the abridgement was 
made. There are one or two passages in The Wisdom of Balavar 
which do not feature at all in the full-length Balavariani : certain 
of these were doubtless introduced by the abridge! himself, 
others possibly introduced from a copy of the full-length version 
which has not come down to us. Evidence for this is provided by 
the fact that the one and only text of the full-length version 
which has survived is a secondary manuscript copy, and not an 
original autograph or archetype. 

The same applies to those portions of the abridged redaction 
of the story which have undergone some alteration. Such modi- 
fication may be attributed to the mediaeval editor, though one 
or two instances may possibly derive from some lost text or 
variant of Balavariani no longer available to us. 

* * * * 

On gaining access to the full-length Jerusalem redaction of 
Balavariani, the British scholar D. M. Lang, who was the first 
Western specialist to discover and devote attention to the text of 
the work, published a new study , 1 in which he stated the 
Jerusalem text of Balavariani to be the original, full-length 
recension of this work, and The Wisdom of Balavar a mere 
abridgement made for the purpose of including the tale in 

1 D. M. Lang, ‘The life of the Blessed Iodasaph : a New Oriental Christian 
Version of the Barlaam and Ioasaph Romance (Jerusalem, Greek Patriarchal 
Library: Georgian Ms 140), in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African 
Studies, London, xx, 1957, pp. 389-407. 


barlaam and josaphat 

anthologies. In Professor Lang’s view, furthermore, the full- 
length redaction of Balavariani is a direct, first-hand adaptation 
of the Book of Bilauhar and Budasaf and was composed on the 
basis of the Arabic non-Christian version in the ninth century, 
this being confirmed by such evidence as the forms of proper 
names, the sequence in which the fables are arranged, the order 
of the narrative episodes, and the concordance of sections of the 

Only a short period of time can have elapsed, Lang thinks, 
from the appearance of the full-length version of the romance to 
that of the abridgement, seeing that the shorter text ‘contains 
archaisms characteristic of the ninth century'. In his opinion, 
the language of the work sometimes recalls that of the Georgian 
Adish Gospels, copied in A.D. 897. When pointing this out, 
D. M. Lang cites the observations of Father M. Tarkhnishvili. 

Professor Lang also compares the Jerusalem redaction of 
Balavariani with the Greek version, and comes to the conclusion 
that in the Greek Barlaam romance there is not a single part of 
the text of any importance (except for the Biblical and Patristic 
quotations and the Apology of Aristides) which is not to be 
found in the Georgian version. In addition, this scholar notes 
that the Greek version lacks several fables which occur in the 
Georgian Balavariani romance (e.g. ‘The Dogs, the Carrion and 
the Wayfarer’, ‘Physician and Patient’, and ‘The Warrior and 
his Amorous Wife’), and which derive in their entirety from the 
Arabic version. In conclusion, Dr Lang affirms that the Georgian 
Balavariani romance in its full-length shape occupies a position 
midway between the Arabic and the Greek versions, and that 
the Greek version is entirely dependent on the Georgian. 

That distinguished philologist the late Father M. Tarkhnish- 
vili also dealt with the questions bound up with the two 
Georgian versions of Balavariani in an article published by way 
of commentary on the new pieces of research which we have 
enumerated. 1 In contrast to our own conviction and to Professor 
Lang’s opinion, namely that The Wisdom of Balavar is merely 
an abridgement of that same full-length version of the romance 
which was discovered in 1956 among the microfilms of the 
Jerusalem collection of Georgian manuscripts, Father Tarkhnish- 

'M. Tarkhnishvili, ‘Les deux recensions du "Barlaam” georgien', in Le 
Mi won, Louvain, tom. lxxj, 1958, pp. 65-86. 



vili considered both versions to derive from a common archetype. 
In his opinion ‘there is no direct and immediate link between the 
longer and the shorter versions of Balavariani, and both of them 
derive from a common source, which is more ancient than the 
ninth century.’ 

Both Professor Lang and Father Tarkhnishvili detect the 
existence of archaic forms in the abridged redaction of 
Balavariani. On this evidence D. M. Lang ascribes the shorter 
version to the ninth century, whereas M. Tarkhnishvili con- 
sidered the original appearance of the romance in the Georgian 
language to antedate the eighth century, that is to say, its 
original Georgian version may have appeared even before the 
conquest of Caucasian Iberia by the Arabs. 

Father Tarkhnishvili’s theory is that the Georgian full-length 
version, certain passages of which recur in the Greek text, has 
been adapted to fit in with a lost Arabic text. It was no doubt 
partly under the influence of this Arabic version that there came 
into being the dual identity of Balavar which we can trace in 
the two Georgian redactions. 

This theory of Father Tarkhnishvili is based on analysis of the 
texts of the Georgian Balavariani and their archaic features. 
When attempting to assign a date to literary texts, it is certainly 
legitimate if direct evidence is lacking to resort to analysis of 
archaisms in vocabulary and syntax, provided that we know the 
precise history of their usage and the evolution of their semantic 
content in a given language. But seeing that these conditions 
are not fulfilled in regard to Georgian, owing to lack of the 
requisite historical dictionaries, an element of arbitrariness is 
bound to creep in when this method is employed. 

A more reliable technique for dating literary texts would, in 
our view, be to pay regard to the occurrence in the relevant 
writings of words of foreign provenance. Now it is a well-known 
fact that Georgian literature has since its beginnings incor- 
porated words of Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Middle Persian 
(Pehlevi) origin. Arabic and New Persian words make then- 
appearance in Georgian literature in their turn, but not before 
a specific phase in its development : Arabic words came in fol- 
lowing the establishment of relations with the Arabs, which 
could not be reflected in literature prior to the eighth century, 
and New Persian ones since the time of the formation of the 




modern Persian language, that is to say, not before the ninth 
century . 1 It follows from this that if a given Old Georgian text 
contains words of Arabic or New Persian provenance, let alone 
syntactical features peculiar to those languages, then such a text 
cannot belong to a period earlier than the eighth or ninth cen- 
turies. When we apply this criterion to the two recensions of 
Balavariatti, it becomes clear that neither of them can be 
ascribed to a period earlier than the eighth or ninth centuries. 

This well-tried method of dating literary works has already 
served as a guide for earlier scholars such as Marr, Javakhishvili, 
Peeters, Blake and others, and remains applicable to the present 
day. When determining the date of the shorter Wisdom of 
Balavar, Marr observed that the presence of Persian words such 
as susti (‘weak’), p ‘Iasi (‘a hair shirt'), changi (‘a lyre’), pasukhi 
(‘an answer’), chabuki (‘a youth’, ‘a knight’) and laghi (‘bold’) 
seemed to rule out any attempt to assign the work to a period 
prior to the ninth century. All the above-mentioned words, 
apart from changi and p'lasi, are found in the new Jerusalem 
manuscript of Balavariani, which also contains two related terms 
of New Persian origin, namely dasturi (‘reliable’, ‘a trustworthy 
agent’) and dastnroba (‘trust’, ‘allegiance’). In addition, however, 
the new Jerusalem text contains the very common Georgian 
word imedi (‘hope’), reproducing precisely the Pehlevi form imed 
(New Persian has omid), and the much more characteristic 
pahraki (‘sentry’, ‘minion’), from Parthian/ Middle Persian 
pahrag (‘sentry’, ‘watch-post’). 

M. Tarkhnishvili has disagreed with our deductions on this 
point, on the ground that the terms chabuki, susti and laghi are 
encountered in the Georgian Bible, and that the word pasukhi is 
employed in the Epistles of Arsenius, translated into Georgian, 
according to Professor G. Garitte who discovered the Georgian 

1 Dr E. M. Boyce, Professor of Iranian Studies in the University of London, 
kindly points out that in weighing up the Iranian evidence, it is, of course, 
important to avoid over-simplification. 'Middle Persian is held to last from 
c. 300 B.C. — c. A.D. 800. Its chief representative is Pahlavi literature; but the 
conventions of Pahlavi spelling were largely evolved B.C., and preserved 
unaltered for several centuries. Since 1904 we have the evidence of the 
Manichaean texts, written in a dear new orthography from c. a.d. 250; so we 
now know that many Sasanian words had already developed into the forms 
known from New Persian.' It is thus important not to operate exclusively 
from the Pehlevi literary evidence, without taking account of the latest 
evidence on the chronology of the evolution of Persian. 



version, prior to the ninth century. Indeed, Father Tarkhnishvih 
is right in saying that Iranian words found in ancient copies of 
the Georgian Bible, dating from the tenth century or earlier, 
cannot truly be treated as New Persian, because these copies 
themselves were made from manuscripts of translations com- 
pleted at an earlier date still. Consequently, despite Marr’s view, 
chabuki and laghi cannot now be definitely identified as New 
Persian, and are in this connection to be disregarded. As for stisti 
(‘weak’), this exists in the form sust in Middle and New Persian 

The Georgian word pasukhi (‘an answer’) is especially interest- 
ing. Dr E. M. Boyce points out that the Old Iranian form is 
pati.sakhwan, giving the Armenian pataskhan. Middle Persian 
has passokh, giving New Persian pasokh. The Georgian word 
seems to reflect this last-mentioned form, which did not enter 
the Georgian vocabulary before the ninth century. 

Father Tarkhnishvili explained two other words, chattgi 
(‘lyre’) and pTasi (‘hair shirt’), as later interpolations, possibly 
subsequent to the twelfth century. As for the words dasturi 
(‘reliable’) and imcdi (‘hope’) which we encounter in the full- 
length Balavariani manuscript, Tarkhnishvili says nothing about 
them at all. 

Critical study of the Iranian loan-words in the two redactions 
of the Georgian Barlaam romance shows them to be a mixed 
bag. Two seem definitely Middle Persian or Pehlevi, several are 
common to both Middle and New Persian, but at least two are 
of New Persian origin. It would be very difficult on this evidence 
to judge the Georgian version of the Barlaam and Ioasaph 
romance to be a production of the earliest phase of Georgian 
literature, the period from the fifth to the eighth century. The 
data at our disposal lead us rather to consider the full-length 
redaction of Balavariani to be a literary monument of the ninth 
and tenth centuries, and the condensed version, a product of the 
end of the eleventh century, if not of an even later time. 

With Tarkhnishvili’s exception, the scholars just mentioned 
concur in declaring the full-length Balavariani to be the original 
text of the work, and the shorter one, a condensed version of it. 

3 ? 


This conclusion was reached almost simultaneously by K. S. 
Kekelidze, D. M. Lang and the present writer, working indepen- 
dently of one another. There is general consensus of opinion 
about the time when the full-length Balavariani made its 
appearance in Georgian. Lang considers that it originated in the 
ninth century, Kekelidze on the border line between the ninth 
and tenth centuries, while my own view is that it belongs either 
to the ninth or the tenth. Scholars’ opinions differ only in regard 
to the appearance of the condensed version. D. M. Lang con- 
siders this to date from the ninth century, while affirming that 
the full-length version of the romance had made its appearance 
earlier in that same century; K. S. Kekelidze dates it at the end 
of the tenth century; while I ascribe it to the end of the eleventh 
century, if not to an even later period. Father Tarkhnishvili, as 
was pointed out, held an altogether different view of the matter. 

What are the sources of the full-length redaction of 
Balavariani? On this point also, the scholars concerned do not 
disagree to any great extent. K. S. Kekelidze and D. M. Lang 
give a straightforward answer. The latter considers that the 
longer version of Balavariani represents an original Christian 
adaptation in the Georgian language of the Arabic Book of 
B ilauhar and B udasaf. Professor Kekelidze views it as a transla- 
tion from a still undiscovered Christian Arabic recension. Dr 
Lang’s theory appears to be the correct one. Had an earlier 
Christian version of the romance existed in the Arabic tongue, 
then one feels that the Arabic-speaking Christians would not 
have needed later on to translate the story from the Greek 
version, especially as this latter is markedly inferior from the 
literary viewpoint even to the Arabic non-Christian version 
(from which the Christian version itself is presumed to derive) 
and also to the Georgian full-length redaction, which in one 
fashion or another proceeds from an Arabic source. 


The general opinions just outlined concerning the derivation of 
the full-length version of Balavariani from the Arabic version, 
and the fact that the Georgian redaction is the source of the 



Greek one, can now be confirmed by one or two new additional 

In the first place, we shall discuss the manner in which the 
name of the Indian king Abenes, Iodasaph’s father, is trans- 
formed in its transition from the Arabic version into the 
Georgian, and then from the Georgian into the Greek. 

In manuscripts of the shorter redaction of Bcdavariani and 
that of the full-length redaction, the name Abenes occurs also in 
the various forms Hebenas, Abenese, or Iabenes. Not long ago, 
there was discovered an Old Georgian hymn dedicated to 
Iodasaph which, according to Ts. Jghamaia, who edited it for 
publication, was composed prior to another, well-known hymn 
to St Iodasaph written by St George the Athonite (1009-65). 1 
In this newly discovered hymn, an English translation of which 
is given later in the present volume, the Indian king bears the 
name Abeneser. Analysis of all the various forms of the name 
encountered in Georgian manuscripts of the work shows that 
Abeneser is certainly the original and authentic spelling, prob- 
ably with an initial ‘H’ : Habeneser. Now the final syllable of 
this name — the element -ser — is an echo of the ending of the 
Arabic form of the Indian king's name — Janaisar. The three 
preceding consonants in the name, ‘H’, 'b' and V, are in fact 
nothing but the Arabic ‘J’> V and Y in disguise. As is well 
known, these letters are distinguished from one another in 
Arabic by the insertion of one or more dots above or below the 
line. The letters in question have either been wrongly read 
because of the inability of the scribe or the translator to make 
out the diacritical marks in the Arabic, or are the result of an 
independent attempt to decipher a text written without any 
diacritical marks at all. 

When we come to compare the Georgian transcription of the 
name Habeneser with the Greek Abenner, we find ourselves 
more convinced than ever of the dependence of the Greek 
version on the Georgian Bcdavariani. 

The fact that the Georgian version of Balavariani stems in its 
turn from the Arabic is confirmed by an important indication 
of a different character, namely the presence in the Georgian 

1 Ts. Jghamaia, ‘Iodasap’is sagaloblis akhali varianti’ (‘A new variant of the 
hymn to Iodasaph’), in Khclnadsert'a institutis moambe (‘Bulletin of the 
Institute of Manuscripts’), Tbilisi, ill, 1961, pp. 33-57. 



text of a syntactical feature especially characteristic of Arabic. 

It is a known fact that in Arabic, the conjunction wa (‘and’ — 
in Georgian, da) is employed in compound sentences not only for 
joining together co-ordinate clauses of equal rank, but also for 
joining subordinate temporal clauses to the main sentence. In 
such instances, the contemporary Georgian language normally 
has recourse to the words tnashin (‘then'), mashin rot sa ('at the 
time when’) or rodesats (‘when’). 

Now it is noteworthy that this Arabic syntactical peculiarity 
which we have noted can be detected in the Georgian 
Balavariani, but only in the full-length version. Consider for 
instance the following passage in Ilia Abuladze’s edition of 1957, 
p. 81, lines 20-24. Translated literally, the text reads: ‘Iodasaph 
said : “How can the poorest of your companions be richer than 
I and you spoke of their extreme poverty? Or how should I 
become miserly when my treasures are multiplied, and I am 
lavish in giving today?”’ 

In other words: 'Iodasaph said: “How comes it that the 
poorest of your companions is richer than I, after what you have 
been saying about their extreme poverty ? How is it that I shall 
become miserly when my treasures are multiplied, whereas 
today I am lavish in giving?” ' 

A similar illustration of the recurrence of this Arabic gram- 
matical peculiarity in the Georgian text is provided on page 139 
of Abuladze’s edition, lines 26-38. 


Study of the full-length Georgian redaction of Balavariani shows 
that the Greek Barlaam romance has its roots in this Georgian 
text, and that the Georgian is the kcimcnon, that is, the original, 
unembellished version, from which the Greek metaphrastic, i.e. 
stylized and ornate, adaptation derives. Once this has been 
demonstrated — and the facts are now established beyond doubt 
— it must be asked who is to be acknowledged as the author of 
the Greek version if not Euthymius the Georgian (Iberian), as 
stated in the headings of certain Greek manuscripts of the Life 
of Barlaam? The author of the Barlaam romance indisputably 
had a first-rate command of both Georgian and Greek. Now that 
a new Georgian redaction of Balavariani has been found, having 



many points of contact with the Greek text, the voice of 
Euthymius the Iberian’s biographer, George the Athonite, has 
an especially convincing ring today when he declares that 
‘Father Euthymius rendered from Georgian into Greek Balahvari 
and Abukura and a number of other works ’. 1 

The fact that out of the Georgian version of Balavariani there 
originated the Greek version, which gave rise in turn to the 
further diffusion of this highly remarkable mediaeval romance 
among many peoples of the West and the East, speaks eloquently 
of the value of Georgian literature’s contribution to the treasury 
of world literature. 

This contribution is not an accidental one. From the fifth 
century of our era, the Georgian people succeeded in establishing 
and maintaining a vigorous connection with the outside world, 
and in keeping up close cultural relationships with the Christian 
Occident and Orient. These links, which arose out of common 
ideological convictions, helped to bring the cultures of the 
various Christian nations closer together and enabled them to 
borrow items of spiritual value from one another. From an early 
period, the Georgians developed literary relations with the 
Syrians, the Armenians, the Greeks, the Arabs and other 
nations. Research into the character and extent of these cultural 
and literary relationships shows that wherever Georgian cultural 
centres grew up and enjoyed favourable conditions for develop- 
ment, they always played an active role in establishing and 
strengthening links with other nations possessing a written 
literature. These links were not of a one-sided nature, but were 
mutual in character. 

After making contact with peoples writing in the Arabic 
tongue, members of the Georgian communities in Jerusalem and 
its environs took the opportunity to translate into Georgian 
some remarkable works of Christian literature written in Arabic, 
both in the way of translations and original writings. These 
Georgian translations from Arabic cover various branches of 
literature. Among them are found hagiographical, ascetic, 
exegetical and other works. One of the hagiographical texts is 
even translated in rhymed form. This is the second of the two 
works which, according to St George the Athonite, were trans- 

1 D. M. Lang. Lives and Leg ends of the Georgian Saints, London, Allen & 
Unwin, New York, Macmillan, 1956, p. 155. 



lated from Georgian into Greek by Euthymius the Georgian, the 
other being Balavariani. The work in question, which George 
the Athonite refers to as 'Abukura’, is in reality known as ‘The 
Martyrdom of Saint Michael, who dwelt in the Lavra of our holy 
Father Saba’. 1 

Particularly extensive and fruitful were the relations estab- 
lished with the Greek literary world in the time of the Byzantine 
Empire. There remained scarcely a single noteworthy work of 
any creative originality which was not absorbed into Georgian 
literature. The Georgians kept a constant watch on the evolution 
of literatures of the most highly developed Christian nations, 
and did not leave a single important literary event without 
making reference to it at the time. 

In the case of Balavariani, Old Georgian literature did not 
lag behind other Oriental Christian communities in adapting 
and translating this intensely interesting literary production. 
There is no doubt that Georgian writes found the romance 
attractive not only for its subject matter, but also for its artistic 

It has already been pointed out that a great artistic role was 
plaved by the fables, which serve to illustrate with inimitable 
vividness certain of Barlaam’s involved moral and dogmatic 
propositions. The full-length Georgian redaction of Balavariani 
even exceeds the Greek Barlaam romance in the number of its 
fables, which provides evidence of its high artistic merit. 

The spiritual life and practical activity of the main and 
secondary heroes of the romance are portrayed in the full-length 
redaction of the Georgian Balavariani story with exceptional 
skill and power. In this romance, there are none of the miracu- 
lous incidents, 'marvels' or ‘signs' which religious fancy tends to 
produce, a factor which distinguishes the Georgian story from 
the Greek version, and even to some extent from the shortened 
Georgian Wisdom of Balavar. It may be worth recalling the apt 
description of the Georgian Barlaam romance as a work of 
literary art given by Academician N. Y. Marr, who wrote : 

‘The magic charm of the work lies in the artistic realism of the 

1 K. S. Kekelidze, ‘Romani “Abukura” da misi ori redak'tsia dzvel k'art'ul 
mdserlobashi’ (‘The Abukura Romance and its two versions in Old Georgian 
literature’), in Etiudebi dzveli k'art'uli literatures istoriidatt (‘Studies in the 
history of Ancient Georgian literature’), vol. vt, Tbilisi, i960, pp. 18-40. 



narrative. This realism, so typical of the most ancient Christian 
version — namely the Georgian one — survives in artistic form 
and preserves its force even beneath the inartistic scholastic 
overlay superimposed in the Greek version. This artistic realism 
is characteristic of all redactions, both Christian and Muslim, in 
proportion to the extent that their archaic features have not 
been obscured, and I would repeat that it emerges with especial 
clarity in the Georgian version . . . Here the story’s heroes are 
so much alive, their tale is told in such a simple and convincing 
manner, that the reader, even a contemporary one, lives through 
their life-story with them.’ 1 

Marr wrote this when he had access only to the condensed 
redaction of Balavaricmi, or The Wisdom of Balavar. This descrip- 
tion can be applied in its entirety and with even greater aptness 
to the full-length version as well, for in comparison with the 
short text, the latter’s artistic merits are even more clear and 

In the Greek Barlaam Romance, as contrasted with the 
Georgian Balavaricmi, the reader's attention is distracted by the 
plethora of quotations from the Scriptures and from ecclesiastical 
writers, especially from the works of St John Damascene. Every 
thesis, every statement of a theological or dogmatic character, is 
accompanied by extracts or quotations from the Bible and other 
religious and philosophical sources. Such extracts are so copious 
throughout the Greek Romance that the fables which are used 
to illustrate it lose a large part of their artistic and illustrative 
character, and are drowned in endless abstract dissertations. 

Such are the main and most conspicuous differences between 
the Georgian and Greek versions of Balavariani. From the point 
of view of literary artistry, the Greek version is inferior to the 
Georgian. In the Greek text, the simplicity of exposition and 
consummate artistry characteristic of the Georgian full-length 
redaction are sacrificed to verbosity and a mass of quotations 
from the Bible and theological books, as is characteristic of 
metaphrastic versions of lives of Christian saints. 


Institute of Manuscripts 
3 Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi, Georgian S.S.R. 

1 N. Y. Marr, ‘Agiograficheskie materialy, etc.’, pt. i, in Zapiski Vostocfinago 
Otdelrniya, St Petersburg, tom. xm, 1901 pp. 94-9;. 



The Georgian text of the following hymn dates back to the ninth 
or the tenth century. It is taken from Manuscript No. 42 of the 
Georgian collection in the Greek Patriarchal Library in Jerusa- 
lem, which was copied not later than A.D. 1065. 1 

May 19. Commemoration of the Noble and Meritorious 
Saint Iodasaph, King of the Indians 

Intercede with Christ our God before whom you stand, O God- 
enlightened worthy monarch, O Iodasaph illustrious in merit, 
that He may inspire us worthily to adorn your holy anniversary 
and fashion for you a diadem of praise to the utmost of our 

Most exalted, blessed one, wisdom was granted to you from 
heaven, and you were made worthy of apostolic grace; for you 
released the race of the Indians by God’s power from their 
benighted devil-worship and brought them into the service of 
the God of all mankind, O blessed one. 

Although this tongue in its impotence is incapable of portray- 
ing the multitude of your feats of piety, whereby you dedicated 
yourself from your youth to the love of God our Saviour who 
granted you the crown of holiness, yet it must offer at least some 
trifling meed of tribute from these unworthy lips in unison with 
the choir. 

By the invincible power of God you put to shame, O worthy 
one, enemies both visible and invisible and trampled their 
cohorts entirely under foot. For you had as your guide the life- 
giving and invincible might of the Cross and thereby put hideous 
Belial to flight. 

1 Our translation of the Georgian text of the hymn has been made from the 
edition by Ts. Jghamaia, in Khelnadsert'a institutis moambe (‘Bulletin of the 
Institute of Manuscripts’), Tbilisi, in, 1961, pp. 45-57. 



You are a candle shining bright upon a lofty candlestick, nor 
could the sinister frenzy of the loathsome idolaters hide you, O 
worthy one ! Rather did you shine forth the more brightly by 
the light of the Holy Trinity, and you dispelled the murk and 
lit up the land. 

You have been exalted, O righteous one, like a planet brilliant 
in virtues, and soared aloft on the wings of the spirit and rose 
above the level of mortal nature; for you offered up countless 
fruit as a sacrifice to God in sweet savour, and you extirpated 
the temples of the idols and established churches instead. 

From the broad way which leads to perdition you departed 
afar, O blessed one, and you clung fast to the narrow road which 
leads to salvation. Therefore Christ our God exalted you with 
glory everlasting, set upon you the imperishable crown, and 
assigned you a place among the immortal souls. Therefore the 
Church today adorns your festival with brilliant panoply and 
rejoices with its children; for the children of the barren are 
multiplied and the prolific womb is exhausted. 

You were filled with divine wisdom, O blessed one, and did 
valiantly withstand that fearsome king, your father Abeneser , 1 
and you quelled his strength by the unconquerable power of 
God which abode in you, O blessed one. Thus you became a 
parent to your own father, O God-clad one, and enlightened him 
by divine wisdom, and made him worthy to be born again by 
baptism of water and the Holy Ghost, and brought him renewed 
into God’s presence like a sweet-scented offering on to the 
heavenly altar. 

When your God-clad and blessed teacher Balahvar was 
informed by the Holy Spirit of the problems which beset you, O 
blessed one, he cast out all human fear and dread of death, and 
like a valiant knight of Christ he came and filled you with 
spiritual wisdom, and exposed clearly to you the vanity and 
transitory nature of this world. And your heart and mind were 
illumined, O blessed one; and he filled you with spiritual joy. 

You are united with the ranks of the apostles, O worthy one, 
divinely exalted king : for you also strove as they did, preached 

1 As pointed out by Professoi Abuladze in his Introduction, this form of the 
king’s name is important, since it provides a link between the Arabic form, 
Jcmaisar, and the Greek, Abenner. In the Georgian Balavariani manuscripts, 
a more usual form is Abenes, this being a later, shortened variant. 



the gospel of salvation, and brought beneath the authority of 
our God countless peoples who were held captive by the foe. You 
became a son of the Church by baptism and brilliantly irradiated 
the assembly of the Christians by the light of God, and darkened 
the eyes of the evil and infernal apostates; and you preached 
aloud the single essence of the Trinity, being one God and 

O come, ye faithful, and sing an anthem to him ! 

The Lord of the planets, Lucifer, who first established his 
throne upon the clouds and vied with God the Creator of all — 
he now was trampled underfoot by Iodasaph with God’s aid, like 
some humble sparrow, together with all his host. 

Who can enumerate the feats which you undertook for the 
sake of Christ our God, O valiant warrior, blessed one of illus- 
trious deeds, or utter them aloud? For they excel the nature of 
mortals ! But we shall not hold back from praising them to the 
extent of our powers. 

The evil foe of mankind, ever eager for our destruction, strove 
to strip from you the mantle of purity, and incited the king to 
tempt you by means of women’s wiles. But you, like some 
incorporeal being, crushed his power by your own weak flesh. 

The commemoration of the pious Iodasaph resembles a white 
rose imparting fragrance to the faithful throng and perfuming 
all who approach to adorn his festival day brilliantly fair and 
worthy of our anthems. 

Rejoice, O blessed one, elect of God, supreme among all kings, 
most worthy Iodasaph, pride of the Christians and fair ornament 
of the Churches. 

With the bright-toned organ we adorn with praise that 
worthy treasure of wisdom, that wondrous man, the God-clad 
Iodasaph, pride and bastion of Christian folk. 

Rejoice then, God-clad one, together with the holy King 
David, called the father of God; for you followed on his tracks 
without wavering and were glorified with him by Christ, O 
righteous one, for all eternity. 

For you have earned the grace of the apostles, the martyrs and 
the just, O worthy one, and now you are united with that 
incorporeal throng and radiantly lit up by the beacon of the 

You rejected the glory of kingship, O blessed one, and put on 



the sweet yoke of monastic life; and you crucified yourself unto 
the world for God’s sake, and the world was crucified unto you, 
according to the words of the Apostle. 1 

Your deeds excel the nature of mortal man, O blessed king; for 
like some disembodied being you withstood the invisible foe in 
those impassable desert places. 

You made haste like a deer towards the well-spring and wan- 
dered from place to place, 0 blessed one, seeking for your good 
teacher Balahvar; and when you had found him, you glorified 

In place of transitory kingship, O blessed one, you chose the 
glory which is permanent and unending, and you rejoice in 
unspeakable and eternal happiness. 

Golden rivers flowed from your body, O God-clad one, where- 
with you watered the parched earth, fertilized its furrows, and 
made the young grass of God’s service to sprout by the stream 
of your tears. 

You were filled with the Holy Ghost and strongly opposed the 
multitude of the foe; and you put to naught all their devices by 
the power of God and cut out their tongues with the sword of 
the spirit, O wise one. 

You bravely denounced the godlessness of your opponents, 
declaring: ‘Those idols which you serve are loathsome devils 
and deceivers of men. How is it that you are so devoid of under- 

You kindled a divine spark within your father’s heart, and the 
darkness of his mind’s eyes was illumined by the light of the 
knowledge of God, and the soul-destroying murk was dissipated. 

0 Trinity all in One, God by nature inaccessible, it was by 
Thy help that Thy blessed and virtuous servant, the worthy 
Iodasaph, was given strength to trample on the power of the foe. 

That promise which Thou didst make by those lips that lie 
not to those that place their hope in Thee, O Christ our 
God, Thou hast performed towards those who have fearlessly 
confessed Thy divine nature before the twrant’s face. 

Immortal king, God the Creator of all, look down upon us 
with the eye of mercy as we celebrate the commemoration of 
Iodasaph the Christian hero. 

1 Galatians, vi.14: ‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of 
Our Lord fesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto 
the world.’ 



You did confess the Holy Trinity, O blessed one, illustrious in 
one essence and indivisible, the Father who knows no beginning, 
the Son who shares His dominion, the Holy Ghost, the giver of 
life, One single Godhead. 

With the wing of a holy dove, O blessed one, you soared aloft 
and made haste into the wilderness and awaited the salvation of 
God, according to the words of the Prophet; and you acted like 
John and emulated the zeal of Elias, crying aloud to our fathers : 
‘Blessed art Thou, O God ! ’ 

You abandoned countless nations, riches beyond description, 
and the many-hued adornments of royalty, and you took up your 
cross upon your shoulders and followed Christ our God, accord- 
ing to His words; and you suffered with Him and were glorified 
with Him for evermore. Intercede for us also, O worthy one ! 

The groaning, tears and unspeakable lamentation of the 
people you left behind — how can human tongue express this? 
They were as a herd of sheep which have no shepherd, stumbling 
in the wilderness now that their virtuous pastor has forsaken 
them, and piteously mourning their grievous lot ! 

You mounted the chariot of God’s service, O righteous one, 
and armed yourself with the invincible power of Christ. As your 
shield you had firm faith, and you donned the helmet of truth. 
With the sword of holiness you wounded Belial and his myrmi- 
dons. Wreathed in victory, you cried out to our fathers : ‘Blessed 
art Thou, O God 1 ’ 

Rejoice, O worthy one, chosen of God, pure offspring of a 
woman’s womb, abode of the most Holy Ghost, dissipator of the 
obscure murk and spreader of the light of God which shines for 
all eternity ! 

Procure us relief from our countless sins by your bold inter- 
cession; for you stand before the throne of God, wearing a 
diadem befitting the multitude of deeds and pious acts which 
you undertook for the sake of Christ, our God. 

Sprinkle my heart, O blessed one, with the dew of divine 
grace when it is parched by sin; sow in my mind the seed of 
righteousness; and make fertile the spiritual pasture by the 
spring of life-giving water. 

You did confess the image and glory of the Father who knew 
no beginning, the Son equal in divine nature, and the Holy 
Ghost, which shares in the work of creation, O righteous one, 



and you proclaimed aloud the divine unity of the Holy Trinity 
and destroyed the error of polytheism. 

Neither luxury nor ease nor countless riches could prevail 
upon you, O blessed one, to forsake the love of Christ our 
Saviour; nor could the king’s fierce wrath shake your resolve, O 
God-clad one ! 

The beacons of your words light up the far corners of the land 
and proclaim your deeds aloud; therefore the Church today with 
all its sons beautifies your festival day with joy and radiance and 
exalts those who render honour to you. 

When you caught sight, O blessed one, of the crowns 
indescribably bright which were to be given you as a reward for 
your deeds, glowing resplendent in the sun of light divine — 
then your heart was filled with joy and you offered up thanks 
to God. 

Accept now this wreath of praise woven by our feeble lips, O 
God-crowned monarch lodasaph, even though it cannot match 
your sacred nature; for human tongue is incapable of glorifying 
you fittingly. 

Your illustrious festival delights with joy divine the hearts of 
those who intone their hymn to you with faith; they sound a 
new trumpet, and with the harp of the spirit as with the 
psaltery they chant in unison with the sweet voice of the 
triumphal organ. 

You destroyed the error of polytheism, O God-clad one, and 
proclaimed the divine unity of the Holy Trinity, and the Word 
born of the Father before all ages, equal with Him in divine 
power, the offspring of a virgin's womb. 

Now boldly beseech God before whose presence you stand, O 
righteous one, to preserve the churches inviolate, and grant the 
nation of true believers and their orthodox sovereign victory 
over the infidel foe, for the exaltation of Christendom. 

By the power of your prayers, 0 worthy one, you drove out 
of your country the foul devils and all their host, overturned the 
filthy tabernacles of the idols, and entirely dispelled their reeking 
fumes which darkened the atmosphere, O blessed one; and you 
tore away the veil of obscurity from the eyes of men’s reason. 

Your arms dealt mortal wounds to that wicked deceiver when 
you raised up the wood of the life-giving Cross and put on the 
invincible armour of its might; and you shattered his fangs and 



dragged from his poisonous jaws countless souls and presented 
them victorious before God. 

You burnt up the evil thorns of godlessness, O worthy one, 
with the fire of the spirit, and extirpated idolatry root and 
branch; and you ploughed men’s hearts with your God- 
enlightened tongue and sowed the good seed of the knowledge 
of God, O blessed one; and those who were drowning in the 
depths of the sea you steered to safety with the rudder of the 

You were aflame with godly zeal, O righteous one, like a fiery 
furnace, and you burnt up all those that blasphemed the Holy 
Trinity; and with the lance of the Cross you pierced the hearts of 
those unseen and evil foes of ours; like Christ Himself you were 
crowned with victory, and by the arrow of your God-enlightened 
words you utterly vanquished them. 

On this holy festival day, made resplendent by the light of the 
Trinity, we must commemorate Iodasaph the gallant champion, 
clapping our hands as we rejoice and sing with spiritual gladness 
to Christ our God who grants us salvation and has given us so 
ardent an intercessor. 

Filled with the Holy Ghost you fearlessly preached God the 
Creator of all amid the assembly of the idolaters; for God’s grace 
abode within you from the moment of your birth, O worthy one, 
and your heart was ablaze with the flame of the love of God 
which utterly consumed those invisible enemies. 

You walked, O blessed one, along the paths of Christ’s pre- 
cepts, guiding the orphans, dispensing justice to the widows and 
help to the poor and • downtrodden, generously enriching the 
needy, caring for all men as a fond parent, like our Father on 
high who mercifully protects those whom He has created. 

Your mouth is filled, O blessed one, with the divine fragrance 
of myrrh and spreads spiritual sweetness among the faithful 
throng; for it flows inexhaustible like the river of Eden and 
effaces the nauseous smell of sin from the souls of Christ’s faith- 
ful orthodox believers. 

Procure for me, miserable sinner that I am, pardon for my 
faults and deliverance from eternal torments, that I may escape 
those dread flames, the impenetrable darkness, the worm that 
sleeps not, and the many kinds of savage tortures, by your bold 
intercession with Christ our God. 




Heal my soul’s wound, O blessed one, wipe away the scar of 
my sins, rescue me from the poisoned fangs of the devil, and 
efface pernicious and corrupt instincts from my mind; and unite 
me with the flock of those that stand on God’s right hand by 
your prayers and intercession, O God-clad, glorious Iodasaph ! 







Grant us thy blessing, O Father! 

1. There lived a certain king in the land of India, in the place 
which they call Sholait , 1 and the name of that king was Abenes. 
He was a man of strong pagan beliefs, possessing great 
dominions and armies countless in their numbers, fierce and 
terrible over all men, victorious over his foes. He was bold, 
haughty and handsome to the eye and profound in wisdom and 
judgment. He persecuted and hated the servants of Christ; and 
his name was Abenes. He was utterly immersed in the pursuit 
of the pleasures and delights of this world and enslaved by his 
own passions, and quite unable to exercise any restraint in 
respect of indulgences which are so pernicious to the soul. There 
was no desire of his in the world which was not granted to him, 
except for one thing that was lacking, namely that he had no 

2. Now the believers in Christ and the holy monks multiplied 
within his land, many of them renouncing completely all the 
cares of this world. And they were greatly disturbed by the 
king’s conduct, and the extent to which he surrendered himself 
to his desires and enslaved himself to the quest of earthly 
delights. And they began to detest the transitory world and all 
its affairs. They published abroad its secret vices and snares and 
the evil consequences which it produced, and declared that the 
fashion of this world must soon pass away . 2 3 

And their words reached King Abenes and caused him deep 

1 Through a confusion in Georgian script, the manuscript has ‘Bolait’ here, 

‘Sholait’ elsewhere. The form 'Sholait' reproduces the ‘Shawilabat’ or ‘Sulabat’ 
of the Arabic version. 

3 1 Corinthians, vii. 31. 



concern, for he said in his heart : ‘This hostile campaign of theirs 
may well produce some revolution in my kingdom and overturn 
all public order therein ! ’ Therefore he rose in wrath against all 
the Christians and began to pronounce curses on the men of God 
and all those who listened to their words. Then by the instiga- 
tion of the devil he decided to persecute them. And the king set 
about them with great violence, subjecting them to flogging and 
torture; and his demented minions brutally assaulted them. And 
he began to bring idolaters to his court and treat them with 
great honour, and he exalted their idols and made obeisance 
before them; and he offered up sacrifices to them and took part 
in their festive rites. And all the foolish and ignorant populace 
started serving the idols in company with their king. 

Then did the error of idolatry increase in strength, and great 
woe and affliction fell upon all the churches and upon the faith- 
ful, and no one endured but those who sincerely believed Christ 
with their whole being. 

3. After these events, the king happened to ask about a certain 
knight of his, who was a prominent grandee and distinguished 
in his sight because of his valour and wisdom. Now this man had 
left this transitory world behind and become utterly devoted to 
Christ, and had taken up his abode in the wilderness together 
with all the other saintly fathers. The king, however, was 
ignorant of this matter. 

When they told the king the news about this grandee, he 
became very sorrowful and ordered him to be fetched. When 
they brought him in, Abenes beheld him in the guise of a 
hermit, dressed in shabby garments just like the men of God. 
The monarch was filled with wrath and began to scold him 
angrily and said to him : ‘O foolish man, you were honoured 
and distinguished in my sight ! But now you have made yourself 
ridiculous in company with those fools, destroyed the honour- 
able position which you enjoyed at my court, ruined your repu- 
tation, turned yourself into a mockery and made a shameful 
exhibition of yourself in the sight of the people. You have 
entered into the way of those lunatics and reprobates, bringing 
down misfortune upon your family and your sons ! ’ 

The man of God answered and said to him : ‘Although I have 
no need to justify myself before you, you should none the less 



look to your own honour and protect your reason from the 
assaults of its enemies/ 

The king said to him : ‘And who is the enemy of my reason ? ’ 
That man replied : ‘The enemy of your reason is your bad 
temper, which excites -and disturbs it and sets it against those 
things which are 'good. Now listen to my word and after you 
have taken it in, then do whatsoever you desire/ 

The king said to him: ‘Behold now, I shall desist from my 
wrath against you. But you must tell me what justification you 
have to put forward for your own behaviour ! ’ 

Then that man said to him: ‘Tell me, O king, what is this 
affair which has excited your wrath against me ? Is it for some 
sin which I have committed against myself, or one against your 
royal person?' 

The king said to him : ‘Do you not realize that if you have 
committed a sin against yourself, then you have sinned against 
me? For it is my duty to correct those who have gone astray, by 
means of my justice, true judgment and exhortation, and to 
safeguard every virtuous quality of my people and punish any- 
one among them who commits wickedness. If you have per- 
petrated some evil thing against your own self, which only 
punishment by me can correct, then do you not realize that you 
force me to intervene therein? You have the same relationship 
towards me as any other citizen of my kingdom. If anyone does 
you a wrong, then it is my duty to award you damages against 
him; likewise if you commit a wrong against anyone else, then I 
must award him damages against you. So it is my duty to call 
you to account now, both on my own behalf and on that of your 
family and children, for all the havoc which you have wrought 
upon them.’ 

The holy man said to him : ‘The principle of justice is based 
on mutual confrontation of witnesses, and nobody can accept 
the verdict of a tribunal unless public proceedings have duly 
taken place. Only a judge has the right to deliver a verdict in 
court. You, O king, have two judges close at hand, one of them 
being reliable in my eyes, while the other is quite untrust- 
worthy. If the judge who is reliable is going to preside over our 
case, then justice will be done; but if the one whom I deem 
untrustworthy presides, then my just cause has no chance of 
prevailing with him/ 



The king said: ‘And who are these two judges? Which of 
them is reliable, and which untrustworthy?’ 

The man replied and said: ‘Reliable in my eyes are your 
wisdom and understanding, but untrustworthy in my opinion 
are your anger and your wilfulness.’ 

The king said to him : ‘Behold, I hereby absolve you from the 
effects of my wrath and wilfulness, and bring into play between 
us my wisdom and justice, even though it is plain that you have 
lost your wits. Now tell me all about this affair of yours, and 
who it is that has led you astray.’ 

The lover of Christ replied : ‘This is how my history began. 
In the days of my youth I heard a certain saying, and it took 
root in my consciousness like a seed. I retained a constant 
memory of this saying within my heart in all my doings, and it 
sprouted upwards from day to day like a young sapling sprouts 
up, until this sapling had grown to maturity as a tree and 
brought forth the fruit which you observe in my person. The 
saying which I heard was as follows: “The fool imagines the 
real thing to be unreal, and mistakes the unreal for the real. 
Whoever fails to comprehend that real thing will be unable to 
cast out what is unreal.’’ — Now that real thing is the world to 
come, and the unreal — -this present world in which you yourself 
are ensnared. 

‘This saying took firm root in my mind and I used to meditate 
upon it from time to time. When I thought it over, it gave me 
warning and purified my understanding for the good of my soul. 
Whenever I was seized by a yearning for earthly pleasures, I 
thrust them away from me now that I had detected them, before 
they could corrupt my spirit and my reason. Then the lure of 
human passions would vanish away, and I would see this world 
revealed as a furnace of fire blazing all around. That saying 
exposed to me every snare and pitfall which the world lays to 
trap all those who are enamoured of it. 

‘After this I bridled my will, rooted out the sources of lust, 
and devoted my mind to the study of good and evil. Then the 
veil of blindness was torn away from my sight, the intoxication 
of lust vanished away and I became aware of the shame of this 
transitory world. I surveyed the future, cast my eyes upon the 
fleeting present and sought experience of man’s final destiny, 
until I had gained sufficient knowledge thereof. Although I 



made no enquiry, nor did I interrogate it, the world itself 
revealed and related to me the injuries which it inflicts, not upon 
its enemies, but upon those who love and cherish it. Then I saw 
that the purity of the world is nothing but murk; its joy nothing 
but sorrow; its wealth nothing but poverty; its exaltation noth- 
ing but debasement; and its enjoyment nothing but remorse. 
Nowhere did I discover anyone possessing wealth without 
incurring worry at the same time, because this wealth could not 
be utilized without incurring resultant liabilities. Suppose, for 
instance, a poor man finds a horse. Surely you can see what 
troubles must beset him? For he needs fodder for it, as well as 
equipment, a stable, and all kinds of similar necessities. Is there 
ever any end to this series of human desires, which follow one 
another in succession ? And how can this world avoid being full 
of sorrow and complaint? There is nobody on earth who can 
rejoice in his children or his treasures without constantly worry- 
ing about them as well. Sorrow and heartache are brought on by 
the anticipation of impending evils, the onset of sickness or 
accidental injuries, or else the coming of death itself upon a 
man's head. The sweetness of self-indulgence turns into bitter- 
ness. Delights are rapidly succeeded by depression, from which 
there is no escape. It follows that it is wrong to involve oneself 
in the life of this world. This applies particularly to those who 
have learnt to recognize its snares and delusions. In fact the 
people who should be the first to detest and flee from the world 
are those whom the world itself has endowed generously with 
its gifts, for they are waiting from day to day and from moment 
to moment for their allotted time to run out; and they tremble 
for their possessions, or else fear to be hurried away by death 
when they least expect it. By then it is too late for a man to 
depart voluntarily from the world which holds him prisoner. 

‘So now I am denouncing this world to you, O king, and 
warning you away from it, because it takes away what it gives 
a man and grudges what it bestows upon him, and afterwards 
sends him away heavy-laden with sin. It strips a man of his 
apparel, until even his privy parts are exposed to scorn, and then 
dresses him up in shame and reproach. It degrades that man 
whom it has raised up, until his enemies trample him under foot. 
It deceives those who submit to it, hates those that love it, tricks 
those that are loyal to it, overturns those that lean upon it, ruins 



the hope of those that put their trust in it, and turns into bitter- 
ness the joy of those that rejoice in it; and nobody can escape in 
peace once he has fallen in love with it. 

'Whenever it makes its voice heard, fools flock to its summons. 
They carry out its behest, but it turns them into dupes. Today it 
prepares the gourmet a sumptuous banquet, and tomorrow it 
turns him over as food for the worms . 1 Today it ministers to one 
man, tomorrow it will make him minister to others. Today it 
allows one faction to triumph over their adversaries, and 
tomorrow it will make their foes gloat over them. Today it makes 
a man king, tomorrow it will make him slave to another. Today 
it causes him to stretch out his hand to give, tomorrow it makes 
him stretch out his hand to beg. Today the world places upon 
his head a crown fashioned out of precious stones, tomorrow it 
lays his cheeks prostrate in the grave. Today it bedecks his 
throat with a necklace, tomorrow it will weigh it down with 
iron fetters. Today he is beloved by his friends, tomorrow hate- 
ful to them. Today the world assembles a chorus to sing his 
praises, tomorrow it gathers mourners to intone his funeral 
dirge. Today everyone wants him near, tomorrow the people 
clamour for his banishment to distant parts, after which he 
must take up his lodging in the outer gehenna and the flames. 
The world mourns not those that have passed away, nor does it 
spare those who remain. It transfers its favours from one to 
another; when some get out of its clutches, it takes hold of those 
who remain. It seats evil men in the seats of the virtuous, sets 
cowards in the place of the valiant, and installs impious men in 
the abodes of the righteous. It marshals all men on the road to 
dissolution even before it robs them of their desires. For the 
people of this transitory world are at enmity with one another, 
and devour and bite each other like dogs, because they know 
how short and narrow is their life span, and how rapidly it must 
pass from them. For this reason they pursue one another, and 

1 The Greek renders this phrase as ‘It maketh them nought but a gobbet for 
their enemies (toTs c x 8 p oTj)' (Loeb ed., pp. 186-7). The confusion between 
‘worms' and ‘enemies’ can be explained only in terms of Georgian, in which 
language ‘worms’ are matlt’a, and ‘enemies’, mtert'a. S. Qaukhchishvili sug- 
gests (Bizantiuri literataris tstoria, p, 220 ) that the redactor of the Greek text 
had before him a Georgian manuscript with the word given in an abbreviated 
form, possibly mtt'a. At all events, we have here yet another piece of evidence 
pointing to the derival of the Greek from the longer Georgian recension. 



friend persecutes friend, in order to snatch for himself as much 
as he can before he departs from this life. In this way they over- 
flow with mutual hostility and envy. 

'But a man who knows and values the world everlasting 
places his faith in eternity and in those good things which fall to 
the saints in time to come. He therefore feels no hostility or envy 
towards his fellow men, nor does it occur to him to do so. For 
many are those who desire to dwell in that abode which was 
promised to them by the only Son of God begotten by His 
Father, which is in Heaven. These are my brethren and my 
friends whom I cherish and uphold. But those whom I once 
deemed to be friends and brothers have turned into my bitterest 
enemies. This is why I have quitted their company and embarked 
on the quest for peace. 

‘Such then is the nature of the world of unreality ! But if you 
wish me to describe to you the world eternal, I will convey its 
aspect to you just as I have received it. However, no man can 
appreciate those imperishable treasures of Christ unless he is able 
to control his own will and intellect.' 

The king answered and said to him : ‘Accursed man, you have 
failed to encompass or find anything except for your own down- 
fall, for you have sharpened your tongue for the perversion of 
the people. If it were not for my pledge to grant you immunity 
for your utterances, I should forthwith deliver your body to be 
burned. Arise now and flee away from out of my kingdom ! ’ 

So that man departed immediately and withdrew to the 
wilderness outside to join the holy Fathers. 

Then the king became incensed against all the Christian 
people, and especially against the monks who dwelt in the 
wilderness, for he said: ‘These are pernicious people, who 
obstruct me in my craving for pleasures and delights ! ’ And on 
this account he aggravated his persecution of all Christians, 
while treating the idols with enhanced respect and promoting 
their ministers to high office. 

4. While the king was labouring under this delusion, there was 
born to him a son, more handsome than any child born in those 
times. The king was filled with great joy; and he called his name 
Iodasaph, and said: ‘This is what my idols have done for me, 
because I have exalted them.’ And he pressed on increasingly 



with wanton revelry along the road to ruin. Then he gathered 
together a multitude of astrologers, that they might determine 
the child’s future career. And these all declared with a single 
voice : ‘This child shall attain a reign of glory with regal majesty 
such as nobody has ever achieved in the land of India.’ 

But among them there was one man, more expert than the 
others in all branches of wisdom. He declared: ‘My verdict is 
that the glory which this child shall attain is not the glory of 
this world; but I believe that he is to be a great guide upon the 
road of truth.’ 

When the king heard these words, he was filled with sorrow 
and his joyful mood left him entirely. He ordered a city to be 
built for his son in a place set apart, and the child lived inside it. 
And the king detailed trustworthy servants to stay with his son 
and look after him and afford him every indulgence. When the 
boy grew up in body and intelligence, Abenes replaced these 
men by other retainers, warning them not to make any mention 
in the prince’s presence of death, of disease, or of eternity; 
neither of righteousness nor of sin; neither of old age nor of 
youth; neither of poverty nor of wealth. If any one of the 
attendants should fall sick, he was to be speedily removed, so 
that the boy might not catch sight of him. All these measures 
the king took so as to prevent the prince from seeing anything 
which might give him cause for wonderment, and thus lead him 
to make enquiry about the faith of the Christians. 

5. After this King Abenes ordered all Christians and priests, 
and every believer to be expelled from his dominions. And he 
sent forth a herald, who proclaimed with a loud voice: ‘Thus 
speaks King Abenes: If after three days I find any of you 
remaining here, I shall deliver you over to be burned.’ So no 
Christians were left in that land, their very memory being 
rooted out. 

Now the king had in his service a certain counsellor, 
extremely faithful to him and exalted in honour. This man was 
virtuous and benevolent, and popular with everybody. However, 
certain of the king’s friends became jealous of him and highly 
resentful of his superior position, and so they looked out for a 
suitable moment to encompass his ruin. 

One day the king went outside the city for a ride in company 



with his counsellor, and they arrived at a certain place. The 
counsellor caught sight of a man lying underneath a tree with 
his feet grievously wounded and unable to stand up. The noble- 
man asked him what had befallen him. The man answered: ‘I 
have been mauled by a wild beast. But if you will take me with 
you, you will find that I shall bring you some profit, if it please 

The courtier said to him : T shall do this, even if I do not find 
any advantage in aiding you. But tell me, what precisely is this 
profit which you say that you will bring me?' 

The wounded man answered : ‘I am a patcher of words.’ 

The nobleman enquired: ‘How do you patch words?' 

The crippled man said : ‘If in speech there be any wounds, I 
can sew them up, so that no damage results from them.’ 

However, the nobleman paid no heed to this saying, but 
ordered him to be carried off to his own home and taken care of. 

Then the king’s intimates hatched a plot against that noble- 
man, and they said to the king: ‘Does Your Majesty not realize 
that this favourite of yours desires to seize your realm and estab- 
lish himself upon your royal throne, for which purpose he 
incessantly stirs up the people ? Now if you really want to find 
out the truth, speak to him in the following terms : “Behold, I 
am preparing to abandon this world, for it is vain ! My aim is to 
be united with those servants of God whom I have cast forth.” 
— In this way you can test out our allegation, and you will have 
the chance to see through his hypocrisy.’ For those men knew 
how responsive that nobleman was to any words relating to the 
life eternal. In their hostility, they were bent on encompassing 
his doom by this ruse. 

The king said to them in reply : 'Unless I find evidence to 
confirm what you allege, I shall certainly not punish him in any 

then the king summoned his favourite and tested him, say- 
ing : ‘You know the extent to which my mind has been wrapped 
up in this world, and the way in which I have spent my days. I 
see now that I have been toiling away in vain. I am afraid that 
death may come upon me, and I shall be found completely desti- 
tute. Now I wish to strive mightily towards the life eternal, to 
the same degree that I have striven in the affairs of this world. 
I see no other alternative but to unite myself to Christ’s servants, 



whom I have subjected to such great persecution. Now what do 
you say, O faithful adviser of mine ? ’ 

When that man had listened to the king’s speech, these words 
inspired him with yearning for Christ, and he burst into tears. 
And he said to Abenes : ‘Live, O king, live for ever ! Although 
eternity is hard to grasp, none the less it is well worth searching 
for; whereas the transitory world, sweet though it is, is never- 
theless to be shunned. It exists, but it is as if it existed not; to 
those who enjoy it, it brings no joy; to those it pleases, it gives 
no pleasure. To those on whom it inflicts tribulation, such 
affliction is of no consequence, for it is but a brief and transitory 
moment in eternity. Any affliction suffered in the transitory 
world for God’s sake is of brief duration, but its reward in the 
life eternal lasts for ever. So carry this plan of yours into execu- 
tion, for it is good that by renouncing this transitory world, you 
should win in return the world everlasting.’ 

These words made a painful impression on the king, who was 
greatly vexed by what this man had said, though he did not 
declare it to him. 

But the counsellor realized that a snare had been laid for him, 
because he could observe the altered colour of the king’s face. So 
he returned home sunk in deep grief, unable either to fathom 
the source of the trap into which he had fallen, or to think of 
anyone who might cure the king's disposition towards him. He 
passed a sleepless night, and then bethought himself of that man 
who was a patcher of speech. He summoned him and said to 
him ; ‘Once vou said to me that you can cure people who have 
been wounded by words.’ 

The man replied : ‘This is indeed the case ! But I trust that 
you have not been visited by any such affliction?’ 

The courtier answered : ‘All this time I have been serving the 
king, and never once have I seen him angry towards me, for I 
have walked before him in faithfulness. But today I have seen 
him incensed against me, and realized that I am no longer in 
favour with him.’ 

The man who was maimed enquired : ‘What has transpired 
between him and yourself?’ 

The counsellor said to him : ‘All I know is that he made a 
certain declaration to me, and I exhorted him to better things. 
But my belief is that he was merely tempting me by this con- 



versation.' — And he went on to relate the whole discussion 
which had taken place between them. 

Then the maimed man said to him : ‘Following this incident, 
your speech is sorely wounded indeed ! But I will cure it by the 
grace of God on high. Know this, that the king suspects you of 
evil designs, and imagines that you are plotting to seize his 
realm. Certain people advised him to arrange this conversation 
as a snare for you. Now you must arise tomorrow, shave your 
head, remove those garments of yours, put on a hair shirt, and 
enter the king's presence. If the king asks you what this signifies, 
then tell him : “Behold I have prepared myself for that enter- 
prise to which you called me. For a pampered man like myself, it 
is easier to die than to endure such a way of life as this, but none 
the less I do not wish to exist apart from you. Since I have 
shared in the good things of your reign, it is now my duty to 
share with you the hardships of this world as well. Just as I have 
been cossetted by you in the past, so let me now be tormented in 
company with you, so that we may together become worthy of 
paradise. Arise now, O king, for your heart has inspired you 
with an excellent intent.” ’ 

The counsellor did just as the maimed one taught him, and 
all suspicion against him vanished from the king's heart. But 
Abenes raged violently against the servants of God, and was 
filled with anger and spite towards them. 

6. One day the king went out on a trip round about his city, 
and caught sight of two men from among the Christians depart- 
ing from the town. He called them to him and said : ‘How comes 
it that you have made so bold as not to leave my country? Or 
did you fail to hear the proclamation which my crier addressed 
to you?’ 

They answered him : ‘Behold, we are on the point of departure 
from your land.’ 

The king said to them : ‘What is it that has delayed you until 

They said : ‘The lack of provisions for the journey, for the 
road that lies before us is long.' 

The king retorted : ‘He who stands in fear of death does not 
dally for the sake of provisions.’ 

The holy men replied : ‘Had we been afraid of you, we should 



indeed have made haste to go. But to us, death is not something 
to be dreaded, but to be desired, for thereby we expect to find 
rest from the troubles of this world. As for the fear felt by those 
who are in love with this world and prefer it to the life eternal — 
their fear is not fearful to us, nor can their gladness make us 

The king answered them, saying: ‘How can you speak thus? 
You admit that you are leaving my country at my command. 
Are you not doing this for fear of death?’ 

The witnesses of Christ said to him : ‘We are fleeing not from 
fear of death, but to avoid giving you any pretext for venting 
your evil impulses upon us and providing you with an excuse 
for committing the godless outrages which you intend to inflict 
upon us. As for terror of you, this has never entered into our 

At this the king was filled with great wrath and ordered them 
to be burnt with fire. Thus was their martyrdom accomplished 
for the sake of Christ, the true God. And a decree was published 
among all the people that whoever encountered any of the 
Christians should slay them. 

After this all the idolaters arose in turmoil and were 
encouraged in their evil deeds. They began to vie with the king 
himself in their murderous and vicious behaviour, intensifying 
the persecution of all Christians in that country; and they burnt 
with fire many priests and monks dwelling in the wilderness. 

Thenceforth the burning of dead bodies became a custom 
among the pagans in the land of India . 1 There remained beneath 
the sway of King Abenes not a single believer known to be a 
practising Christian, apart from those who dedicated themselves 
to the creed of the Holy Trinity and the faith which they placed 

1 In this passage, the Georgian translator has altered and abridged his text, 
to the detriment of the meaning. The true significance of this passage can be 
grasped only by reference to the Arabic version (trans. Rosen, Povest’ o 
Varlaamc i Iosafe, etc., pp. 35-6), where we read: ‘And thence self-incineration 
and the burning of corpses became a custom in the land of the Indians, 
because of the bliss which the adherents of this creed claimed to be attained 
through such incineration. And volunteers from among them started burning 
themselves voluntarily, in order, so they asserted, to attain the same merit as 
those persons (i.e. the martyrs).’ It is clear that the Georgian Christian redactor 
found the idea of ritual suicide repugnant, and watered it down so that it lost 
all its original point. Cf. further J. Filliozat, ‘La mort volontaire par le feu’, in 
Journal Asiatique, CCU, 1963, fasc. 1, pp. 21-51. 



in the true Gospel, to the point of winning the grace of martyr- 
dom for Christ’s sake, whereas some others took refuge under- 
ground in the catacombs. Many there were also who retained 
their belief in Jesus Christ in secret, and had not strength to 
profess it publicly like the others who were martyrs and con- 
fessors of the Trinity. And so those pagans subjected the faithful 
servants of Our Saviour Jesus Christ to much violent abuse and 
severe tortures. 

7 . Meanwhile the king's son grew up in the splendour of youth 
and perfection of body. He was fair to look upon and possessed 
a firm will and a fertile intelligence. His father took care that he 
should lack none of that instruction in wisdom and learning 
which is needful for a king. The only restriction was that noth- 
ing should be said to him about the vanity of this transitory 
world, about the onset of death, or of the inevitable end to 
which men’s life is subject. The reason for this was that the king 
feared lest such themes might lead the lad to seek out the road 
of eternity or to investigate the problems of religious faith. 

Now the child was most receptive of knowledge, a cherisher 
of learning, and a seeker out of all words of wisdom, excelling 
all previous members of that royal house. The king for his part 
was amazed at the boy’s prowess. He did not know whether to 
feel joy at his intelligence and perfection, or grief and sorrow at 
the words uttered by the astrologers at the time of his birth. 

At length the boy began to remark on his enforced detention 
within the city, realizing that his father would not allow anyone 
to visit him, nor permit him to go outside anywhere. And he 
became filled with resentment on this account. Then he reflected 
further, and said to himself: ‘My father is senior to me and 
knows all my needs. I have no right to repine, because he is 
acting in my own best interests.' 

So things continued until the prince attained to maturity of 
wisdom, and said within his heart: ‘Even though he is my 
father, surely I have the right to judge for myself what suits me 
best. I am grown up now, and I cannot see in what respect I am 
inferior to my own retainers. Why should I leave them to 
arrange my affairs for me, and make no effort to find out for 
myself what is right, as does every normal person?' 

Iodasaph's father carried out all his requests, and came to see 




him at frequent intervals . 1 And the boy determined to take the 
first opportunity of asking his father about this matter. Then he 
reflected : ‘It is my father who is solely responsible for my con- 
finement. If I consult him, he will not tell me the truth, and I 
shall only disturb his mind by my curiosity. So I had better try 
to fathom this question by other means.’ 

Among the prince’s retainers there was one man whom the 
boy loved more than the others because of his exceptional kind- 
ness. Iodasaph thought that this man’s help would enable him to 
discover the true facts about himself. So he began to multiply 
tokens of affection and respect towards him, singled him out for 
bestowal of all favours, and promised him still more for the 
future. The tutor trusted Iodasaph and knew that his word was 
his bond. When the boy knew that he had gained the man’s 
trust, he approached him confidentially and said to him : ‘I have 
a question to ask you. If you will answer it truthfully, then I 
assure you that you shall be my friend and beloved above all 
other men, and you shall always find a haven with me. But if 
you conceal the facts from me, you will put an end to my 
affection and cut short your expectations both for the present 
and for those future times when I expect to inherit my father’s 

The tutor had complete faith in the prince’s integrity and was 
confident that he would keep secret whatever he told him. So he 
replied : ‘Ask me whatever you like, for my soul has nothing to 
hide from you.’ "" 

The boy said to him : Tell me why it is that my father shuts 
me up here like this and keeps me apart from other people, and 
other people away from me ! ’ 

The tutor answered and said: ‘I will relate the story to you 
and give you the true explanation of this. Now it was those 
astrologers who persuaded your father to act thus, at the time 
when your sire was exterminating the servants of God and 
scattering them abroad from out of his country. The seers 
declared to the king that you yourself would reach the supreme 
goal on the road of God’s service. Your father was therefore 

1 The text says here that his father ‘did not multiply his visits to him . . . 
but the negative is surely an intrusion. The shorter Wisdom of Balahvar, 
trans. D. M. Lang, 1957, has (p. 74): ‘But he (i.e. King Abenes) himself used 
to come frequently, for he loved him.' 



afraid that you might incline to do their will and be influenced 
by their words, and so he cut you off from mankind, in order 
that you might not cause our nation to adopt an alien creed.' 

The lad answered and said to him : 'And what kind of men 
are those servants of God, to whom my father meted out such 
harsh treatment?' 

Then the tutor told him the whole story of the Christians, and 
gave him a full account of all their virtues. When the lad had 
learnt all this, he made him no further answer. 

8. When his father next came, lodasaph said to him : ‘I should 
like you to give me an explanation of a certain problem, which 
has plunged me into great sorrow and despondency.’ 

At this his father said to him : ‘Ask me whatever question 
you like, my son ! ’ 

The boy said: ‘Tell me then, my father and lord, why you 
have ordained that I should be shut up in this place, and why 
do you prevent people from visiting me ? ’ 

His father replied : 'It is my wish, my son, that you should 
see nothing to trouble your heart, and I have averted from you 
all pernicious evils which might mar your pleasure.’ 

The lad said to him: ‘Know, O king, that by the conduct 
which you have adopted towards me, you have turned all my 
joys into bitterness, to such an extent that my food is without 
taste to my palate. You have brought great anguish upon me, 
because my soul yearns with a great desire for all things that are 
outside these gates of mine. Now I pray you, father, and beseech 
you in the name of your regal majesty, to let me out to go 
abroad and look upon the land; and never will I transgress your 

When the king heard these words, he was much grieved; his 
heart sank as he realized that if he obstructed Iodasaph’s will 
and increased his depression, his son’s entire pleasure in life 
would be soured. So he said to him : ‘Son, if you desire to mount 
your steed and sally forth among men one day, let it be accord- 
ing to your will.’ And the king commanded the lad’s escorts to 
take him to beautiful places only, and to ward off everything 
unpleasant to the human eye; they were to station singers and 
minstrels along his route, so that his mind should be diverted by 
such distractions from curiosity about the affairs of the world. 



And Iodasaph's retainers acted as the king commanded. So it 
came about that the king’s son made frequent trips outside the 
town as often as he liked, and wherever he felt inclined. 

One day, however, as the lad was going along, he caught sight 
of two men, one horribly deformed, the other a blind man who 
was bearing his crippled partner along. His attendants had 
become careless and omitted to clear these cripples away from his 
path, as they normally did. When the boy saw them, he was 
filled with abhorrence at the sight of them, and made enquiry 
from his retainers concerning them. They said to him: ‘These 
are men who are stricken with infirmity, just as other men also 
are stricken. That first man’s deformity springs from some 
internal ailment, whereas the other's blindness is also the result 
of disease.’ 

The boy said to them : ‘Is this fate common to all men ? ’ 
They answered : ‘Not to all, only to certain ones.' 

Again the youth asked them : ‘Can one foretell on whom this 
calamity shall fall, as well as knowing who will be spared from 

They answered him: ‘Some it attacks, and others escape it; 
but this cannot be determined by human volition.’ 

The lad said to them : ‘So there is nobody who can be really 
assured that it will not befall himself?’ 

They replied : ‘There is no one.’ 

Then he began to brood and to meditate; he was disturbed in 
mind and his complexion changed colour, and he returned home 
weighed down with melancholy. 

On another occasion, Iodasaph took a ride in the open air and 
saw an old man stricken with years, bent double to the ground. 
The colour of his face was black, his hair white, his flesh 
shrivelled; not a single tooth was left in his mouth, his speech 
was incoherent, and he crawled upon his hands and knees. The 
sight of this old man revived the prince’s terror and he began to 
interrogate his associates about him. 

They told him: ‘This is a man who is ancient of days, on 
whom increasing age has brought decreasing strength, until he 
has reached the condition in which you see him. Henceforth he 
will decline still further every day.’ 

The lad asked : ‘And does this fate befall every human being ? ’ 
They answered : Tes, it does, unless death forestalls it.’ 



The youth asked : ‘What is the next stage after this?’ 

They replied : ‘After this, death will carry him off.’ 

The lad enquired : ‘And when does a man arrive at this state ? ’ 
They told him : ‘After eighty years, or sometimes a hundred.’ 
‘What is a year?’ the lad asked them. 

''Twelve months,’ they said. 

‘And what is a month?' the youth enquired. 

They told him : ‘Thirty days.’ 

‘After all this,’ the lad asked, ‘is there no reprieve from death, 
nor any means of avoiding this senile state, followed by death ? ' 
They answered him : ‘There is no escape from it ! ’ 

The boy said: ‘As for those afflictions of which I have seen 
examples, namely deformity and blindness, is it a fact that 
nobody is guaranteed immunity from their attack, however 
brave he may be ? ’ 

They answered him : ‘The truth is as you state it.’ 

‘Does this apply equally all over the world ? ’ asked the boy. 
They replied: ‘Yes, that is indeed so .’ 1 
Then the lad said : ‘No longer is there any sweetness in this 
transitory life now that I have seen these things; and no one has 
any respite from sudden or gradual death. Gradual and sudden 
death are close in league together. Day follows hard on day 
inside the month, the year follows hard upon the heels of the 
month. Soon the years themselves must pass away, to drain a 
man’s life from him, even if he succeeds in living out the full 
span of human existence.’ 

Then the prince departed, fretting over these matters and 
ceaselessly dwelling on these topics in conversation and within 
his heart. Thenceforth he began to repine and mope, and set no 
value on the delights of this world. His depression grew more 
acute every day. None the less, Iodasaph took trouble to humour 
his father. Whenever he met him, he put on a cheerful and care- 
free manner, lest his father should learn the reason for his 
melancholy and prevent him henceforth from leaving the city. 

1 These three examples of human decay seen by Iodasaph correspond to 
three of the Four Omens of Buddhist tradition, where they take the form of a 
man worn out by age, a sick man, and a dead body. The Fourth Omen leading 
directly to the Buddha's Great Renunciation is Gautama’s encounter with a 
mendicant monk. This monk appears later on in our Christian story in the 
shape of the Christian hermit Balahvar (Barlaam), who converts Iodasaph to 
the way of truth. 



Whenever he met anyone capable of intelligent conversation, he 
would listen attentively to what he said, hoping to hear from 
somebody a message of truth which would lift the gloom from 
his heart. 

One day he summoned his tutor and said to him : ‘Do you not 
know of any person here who follows a faith different from 

The tutor replied: ‘There used to be some men living here, 
about whom I told you previously, and who were called 
Christians and servants of God — men who hated this world and 
its delights and sought, or so they claimed, for the eternal king- 
dom. Their faith does not resemble our faith, nor does their con- 
duct resemble our conduct. But the king was hostile towards 
them and expelled them from our country: many of them he 
exterminated by various forms of torture and by fire, as I have 
already explained to you. At present I know of none of them 
remaining in our land.' 

When the tutor had described their deeds to him, the young 
prince’s interest was aroused and he longed to see these men for 
himself. He was like a man who has lost some treasure and is 
desperately hunting for it. He made a parade of his detestation 
and hate for the transitory world, exclaiming : ‘Abominable in 
my sight are the pleasures of this earth ! ’ And he spurned all the 
ways of the world and its devotees, until his reputation was 
spread in all places; and all those who heard about Iodasaph 
praised God, who is made manifest in the Trinity and glorified 
in Unity, whose majesty 7 belongs to the Father, the Son and the 
Holy Ghost, now and for ever and to all eternity, Amen. 1 

1 Here follows a note by the scribe : ‘O Christ, have mercy on David, Amen.’ 




9. Now this report reached a certain man who loved God and 
was graced by the habit of the monastic order, and filled with 
the Holy Spirit and all manner of wisdom; his name was 
Balahvar and he dwelt in the land of Sarnadib. 1 He heard about 
the prince, and learnt that he thirsted and yearned for the faith 
of Jesus Christ Our God. So he embarked on a ship and arrived 
in that kingdom, where he discarded his monastic attire and 
donned the garb of a merchant. He began to cultivate local 
society and frequently visited the king’s court, as was the general 
custom, until he had got to know the people there and their 
several relationships with the king and his son. 

He also found out about the special status of the prince's 
tutor. One day he gained a confidential interview with him and 
said : ‘I am a foreigner come from a far country. In my possession 
is a treasure of great price which I have kept hidden from men. 
I have resolved to reveal it to no one but yourself, because I have 
confidence in your virtue and intelligence, that you will do me 
the favour of keeping this business a complete secret.’ 

The tutor answered: ‘You can trust me to do your bidding 
with complete honesty. I will reveal this matter to nobody but 
the person whom you yourself name.’ 

Balahvar said to him : ‘The treasure I possess is finer than red 
brimstone, since it restores sight to blind men’s eyes and hearing 
to the deaf, makes the dumb speak, cleanses the lepers, causes 
the lame to arise and walk, strengthens the ailing, enriches those 
that are in want, and cures all ailments; it grants victory over 
the foe, drives out devils from the possessed, and furnishes a 
man with all his heart’s desire.’ 

1 A corruption of the Arabic ‘Sarandib’, i.e. Ceylon. The transposition of the 
vowel ‘a’ and consonant ‘n’ is particularly characteristic of a misreading of 
Arabic script. 



The tutor said to him: 'You do not look a fool to me, O 
stranger, though your words sound like the prattle of some 
loquacious babhler. What you tell me is unlike anything I have 
heard before. Still, I find it hard to regard you as a liar when I 
contemplate the gravity of your outward demeanour. So tell me 
now: What is this treasure of which you speak? Show it to me, 
let me have a look at it ! If it is of regal quality, I shall inform 
the king’s son about it. It would be unwise for me to praise a 
thing to him beyond measure, so that when he came to examine 
it, he would not find it a match for my account of it.’ 

Balahvar the wise said to him : ‘You ask me to show it to you 
— but no one has the power to see it unless he possesses two 
qualities : soundness of eyesight and a body pure of sin. If any 
man who is dim of vision and steeped in sin should catch sight 
of it, the light of his eyes will be extinguished and he will lose 
his wits as well. Now I am a physician, and I can see that your 
eyesight is dim. I am afraid that the brilliance of this thing will 
quench the light of your eyes. But I have heard of the prince’s 
exemplary conduct and holy way of life, kept pure from all evil 
ways; and he is still a lad and sharp of eye. And so I place my 
trust in God, that the prince may be given power to look upon 
this treasure of mine.’ 

The tutor replied: 'I have taken note of all that you have 
said. I am a man polluted by sins, and can no longer aspire to set 
eyes upon that treasure. Furthermore, my eyesight, as you 
observe, is no longer sharp, so I have no wish in this transitory 
existence to look at it at all. However, I believe that you are 
speaking the truth and not lies.’ 

Balahvar declared to him : ‘Indeed I am telling you the truth. 
Have faith in me, and do not be afraid to make these things 
known to the king’s son, for he is worthy of them. One who 
holds an official position such as yours should certainly not hide 
so fine a treasure from him; and if you do tell him about it, then 
you will win for yourself increased favour and honour in his 
sight, greater than that enjoyed by any of your colleagues.' 

After this the tutor went in before the prince and told him 
everything he had heard from Balahvar the wise. Now the boy 
longed for human company, hoping that he might hear from 
someone’s lips words profitable to the soul. When Iodasaph had 
listened to the tutor’s story with its miraculous account of the 


treasure, his mind sensed that in the person of Balahvar he 
would find what he desired. So he ordered him to be brought in 
privately, together with his treasure. 

10. So Balahvar was escorted in, holding a small casket in which 
he pretended that a jewel was contained. When he made his 
appearance before the king’s son, he offered Iodasaph greetings 
and began to utter prayers for his prosperity, as it is fitting to 
do before kings. The prince likewise received him with honour 
and enquired cordially after his health. Then Iodasaph told the 
tutor to give up his seat to Balahvar and leave the room. When 
he had gone out, he told Balahvar to sit down and said to him : 
‘Show me this treasure which you have brought with you.’ 
Balahvar answered and said to him: ‘It would be terrible if 
any accident befell you through negligence on my part, for my 
treasure does really possess those properties which your tutor 
described to you. No one is capable of setting eyes on it except a 
man of pure and innocent character, with a fully-developed 
intelligence. If anyone feeble of wit should see it, he would lose 
what brains he has and the sight of his eyes to boot. So now I 
propose to test you in conversation and to hold speech with you, 
and if I find you qualified to look upon it, I shall show it to you, 
for I have brought it especially for you and for no one else. I 
place my hopes in God, that you have attained the ability to look 
upon it; you shall certainly succeed in this if it be God’s will. 
For during this audience, O prince, you have received and wel- 
comed me, an unknown stranger, with the same exemplary 
courtesy which you accord to the grandees of your palace ! ’ 
Iodasaph answered and said : ‘This is because I am most con- 
fident that your visit will prove worthwhile, and that I shall 
receive from you that which my heart desires.’ 


The Trumpet of Death: The Four Caskets 

n. Balahvar said to him: ‘Exceptional though your kindness 
is, there is nothing amazing about it. For once upon a time there 
lived a certain pious king, who was virtuous and sought after 
righteousness. When he was passing along the road one day with 



a throng of followers, he caught sight of two men clad in 
tattered garments made up from rags salvaged from rubbish 
heaps; and their sallow complexions testified to their poverty and 
need. But the king recognized them : at their sight, he swiftly 
dismounted from his horse before them, embraced their necks 
and accorded them great honour and respect. When his com- 
panions saw this, they strongly resented the king’s conduct and 
considered his behaviour most ridiculous, for their monarchs 
were quite unaccustomed to behave in this fashion. Not daring 
to reproach the king themselves, they went to see his brother, 
who habitually spoke his mind frankly to him. The courtiers 
told him what the monarch had done, and urged him to 
admonish the king not to do such a thing again. So the king’s 
brother went to him and repeated what those people had told 
him. When he had finished speaking, the king answered him 
in noncommittal terms which left him in doubt whether His 
Majesty had paid any heed to his representations, or whether he 
was merely vexed by them. 

‘Now it was the custom in that kingdom when the king was 
angry with anyone and intended to put him to death, that he 
would send a herald, known as the herald of death, who would 
make a loud noise before the gates of the victim’s house, and 
blow upon a trumpet. When the master of the house heard this, 
he would know for certain that he was soon to die, and all the 
people would know it too. So after a few days, the king ordered 
the herald of death to go and sound a fanfare at his brother's 
gates. The herald went forth and made a great noise and blew 
the trumpet of death before his door. When the king’s brother 
heard its blast, he despaired of his life and made his last will and 
testament; and his household began to weep and tear their hair. 
Then he donned his own burial garment and went with his wife 
and children to the royal palace, all shedding tears of despair 
and uttering loud laments; and they sprinkled ashes upon their 

‘The king ordered them to be brought into his presence. His 
brother wept and implored mercy. Then the king said to him : 
“O fool and slow of understanding, how comes it that you were 
so prostrated with terror at your brother’s herald when he 
sounded the signal of death before your gates? Surely you know 
that your brother and his herald are but mortal men created by 



Almighty God, incapable either of hastening the fulfilment of 
His will towards them, or of averting their own destiny? You 
know that you have not committed any crime against your 
brother to render you liable to the death penalty. Why then 
were you astonished at my dismounting and falling down before 
those who are heralds of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 
who remind me that I shall meet Him face to face, and expound 
to me the words of His gospel? I am well aware of my many 
sins. Lo then, it was to reprove your folly that I played you this 
trick, even as I shall shortly convict of vanity those that 
prompted your reproof of me.” And the king forgave his brother, 
after giving him this salutory lesson. 

12. ‘Then the king ordered four caskets to be made. Two of 
them he had inset with gold and silver and carbuncles and 
precious stones. He had these ones stuffed with dead men’s bones 
and all manner of unclean refuse, which is loathsome to men’s 
senses. Then he secured them with golden clasps. After this, he 
had the two other caskets smeared with tar and pitch. And he 
filled their interior with carbuncles and precious stones and all 
manner of sweet perfumes which delight men’s senses. These he 
fastened with bits of old rope. Then the king called for those 
courtiers of his who had been scandalized by the respect shown 
by him to the saintly mendicants. When they had taken their 
seats before him, he had the two sets of caskets brought in, both 
the gilded ones and the others as well, and invited them to 
appraise them. Concerning the two gilded ones they said : “Our 
minds cannot fathom their true value, for they deserve to be 
receptacles of all manner of precious treasure; as for those two 
pitch-smeared ones, we feel that these unsightly objects can have 
no value worth mentioning.” 

‘At this the king said : “Of course ! Such is bound to be your 
verdict and assessment, for you look at nothing but people’s 
outward appearance!” Then he ordered the two caskets inlaid 
with gold to be opened. And the assembled company shrank from 
the loathsome trash which they contained, and the stench from 
it filled their nostrils. 

‘The king remarked: “This is the image of all those people 
who deck themselves out with fine raiment and gold, but within 
are full of stupidity, boredom, falsehood, filth and all manner of 



undean elements, more nauseating even than any refuse which 
this world produces.” 

‘Next he had the two pitch-smeared caskets opened up, and 
the mansion was lit up with the radiance of the jewels, and the 
company was delighted with the savour of perfume. 

‘The king said: “This is the image of those holy men, my 
veneration for whom scandalized you so intensely when you 
surveyed their shabby raiment with your outward eye. For my 
part, I was surveying their inward nature through the eyes of 
my mind.” 

‘Then the courtiers declared that they had profited greatly by 
this parable, and knew now that the king had acted rightly.’ 

And Balahvar concluded: ‘This is a semblance of you, O 
king’s son, for you have granted me honour in return for the 
joyous tidings which you expect to hear from me.’ 

13. Then the prince arose from his throne and said in his 
heart: 'It appears that here indeed is my heart’s desire, for 
which I was seeking.’ Turning to Balahvar, he exclaimed: 
‘Exceeding good is your discourse and manifest is the truth of it. 
I take it that this in fact is that very treasure which you keep 
hidden, for it strengthens my heart, lightens my eyes and forti- 
fies my understanding. If the matter stands as I believe, pray 
give me confirmation of this. If you have something else to tell 
me besides what I have heard, I shall be very satisfied to receive 
it instead of the jewel. For you have greatly enlightened my 
mind by your discourse and torn away the veil of melancholy 
from my heart. So now tell me an allegory about goodness.’ 

The Sower 

Balahvar said: ‘A certain sower went forth, gathered up good 
seed and began to sow. And some seed fell by the roadside, and 
straightway the birds pecked it up; some fell upon the rock, on 
which there was just a little soil and moisture, and sprouted up, 
but when its roots reached the arid surface of the rock, they 
withered away; and some fell among thorns, and when it 
sprouted up the thorns choked and killed it; but some fell upon 



good ground free from tares, and although there was but little 
of it, it sprouted up and brought forth much fruit. 

‘Now the sower is the giver of wisdom, Christ Our God, and 
the good seeds are the words of truth uttered by His sacred 
mouth. The ones which fell by the roadside, so that the birds 
pecked them up, are those which are heard by the ear, but pass 
the heart by; and the ones which fell on the moist spot and 
sprouted up, and then withered away because of the aridity of 
the rock, are those which a man hears and finds congenial, and 
acknowledges as true for a brief moment, but then fails to grasp 
with his mind. But those which sprouted up and were about to 
bring forth fruit, only to be choked by the thorns, are those 
words which a man cherishes, but when it comes to putting the 
ideas which he has accepted into effect, his ambitions stifle and 
choke them. But the seed which sprouted up and brought forth 
much fruit is that which the eye will harvest, the heart gather 
in, and the mind bring to perfection; and it will conquer lusts 
and cleanse the heart from sins.’ 

The king’s son said to him : ‘I place my hope in Christ, that 
whatever seed you implant in me may sprout up and bring forth 
much fruit. Now convey to me the likeness of the transitory 
world, and how it deludes those who cherish it.’ 


The Man and the Elephant 

14. Balahvar said to him : ‘This transitory life and all that 
cherish it Tesemble a man pursued by a raging elephant, which 
cornered him inside a fearsome abyss. As he fell down inside it 
he found two branches growing out over the precipice, so he 
hung on to them, and then managed to establish some sort of 
foothold. When he looked around him, he descried two mice, 
one white and the other black, which never ceased to gnaw at 
the roots of those trees on which he hung. Then he looked down 
into the chasm and noticed a dragon, which had parted its jaws 
and was intent on swallowing him up. And on the ledge on 
which his feet rested he discerned four heads of asps projecting 
from the cliff. Then he lifted up his eyes and saw that a little 
honey was dripping from the branches of the tree, and he began 
to eat it. And its flavour and sweetness so entranced him that he 



no longer worried about the perils which beset him and the fact 
that he might be bitten to death at any moment. As for the 
branches on which he was suspended, he saw the tree's roots 
being gnawed away by the mice and — most dangerous of all — 
the dragon lying in wait to swallow him up, but all this failed to 
trouble him in the slightest. 

‘Now that elephant is the harbinger of death, which pursues 
the sons of Adam, and the abyss is the world, full of all manner 
of evil and pernicious snares. The two branches are a man's life 
span and the two mice — one white and the other black — are the 
days and nights that fret away at it incessantly, and suddenly 
sever the thread of a man's life. The four asps signify the four 
elements from which a man’s body is constructed, and when a 
single one of them is destroyed, life comes to an end. The dragon 
which opened its jaws and longed to swallow him up, is the 
image of hell, into which the lovers of this world enter after 
their death. And those few drops of honey are the brief delights 
of this world, by which it deceives those who are led astray by 
the sweetness of corruption.’ 

15. The king's son said: ‘This comparison is just and the 
parable truly remarkable! Behold, you have revived my spirits 
by this discourse of yours. Now tell me an allegory about this 
vain world and its devotees — those people who are infatuated by 
its charms and contemptuous towards the better life.' 

The Man and his Three Friends 

Balahvar said : 'This world and those who love it resemble people 
delighting in thorns smeared with honey, and spurning the 
blossoms which fill the garden with fragrance, which is the 
rejection of the world. — Now this is like the case of a certain 
man who had three friends. One of these he loved more than 
anybody else; 1 [and he thought about him day and night and 

1 At this point one leaf (fol. 35) is missing from the Jerusalem manuscript. 
However, this fable is present in the shorter Georgian Wisdom of Balahvar 
(trans. Lang, 1957, pp. 82-3), as well as the Greek, Arabic and other main 
recensions, from which the missing passage has been reconstructed for the 
purpose of this translation. 



exposed himself to risk and hazard for his sake, not wavering in 
his devotion towards him nor hesitating to sacrifice for his friend 
both his life and his possessions. Now the second friend occupied 
a lower place than the first in his affections, but was none the 
less his intimate friend and boon companion, so that he esteemed 
and cherished him, rendered him services, gave him presents, 
and ceased not to exert himself on his behalf. But the third 
friend he slighted and neglected and found tedious, so that he 
devoted to him only an infinitesimal share of his efforts, love and 
property, scarcely ever paying him a visit and then only on rare 

‘All at once there befell that man one of those misfortunes 
when a man has need of friends and trustworthy allies. The 
king’s sheriffs arrived to hale him off before the royal presence, 
and the man ran in terror to his first friend and said to him : 
“You know how much I love you, what sacrifices I have made 
for your sake, and what risks I have incurred on your behalf. 
Now today I have desperate need of your help, seeing that they 
are dragging me away for trial. What are you prepared to do to 
help me?’ 

‘The other replied : “I am no friend of yours, but have com- 
panions of my own with whom I must needs make merry. All I 
can do is to supply you with a couple of garments, though these 
will not be of much use to you.” 

‘Then he ran panic-stricken to his second friend whom he 
loved and cherished and said to him : “What can you do for me, 
for I have not ceased from exerting myself on your behalf? 
Behold, today is the moment when I have most need of you, for 
they are hauling me off for trial ! ” 

‘That friend replied : "I have no time for you today, because 
I have enough troubles of my own to attend to. Go your way, 
and know that I am no longer any friend of yours. However, I 
will accompany you a few steps, and then return to look after 
my own affairs.” 

‘Finally that man had recourse to the third friend, whom he 
had despised in the days of his prosperity, and said to him ] 1 with 
a shamefaced expression : “I scarcely dare open my lips to plead 

1 At this point we resume our translation from the Jerusalem manuscript, in 
the edition of Professor Ilia Abuladze. 



for your help, but I am driven to have recourse to you in my 
grievous misfortune, in the hope that you will afford me solace 
in my hour of need.” 

‘Then this man answered him joyfully and said : “I am your 
friend, and I have stored up the memory of your little kindnesses 
to me. And now I will repay you with interest. Have no fear, for 
I will accompany and intercede for you in your trouble, and not 
deliver you into the hands of your enemies nor betray you. 
Cheer up now, for there will surely follow a happy issue from 
your misfortune.” 

‘Then that man exclaimed : ‘‘I do not know which I should 
repent of more deeply — my excessive coldness towards my true 
friend, or my exaggerated fondness for those two false ones ! ” ’ 

The king’s son said to him : ‘This excellent parable appeals to 
me greatly. Pray explain its true meaning to me.’ 

Balahvar said to him : ‘That first friend is the love of money, 
which men hoard up. For the sake of their cherished possessions, 
they pay no heed to death, nor do they hesitate to incur all 
manner of trouble and effort for their sake. But when death is at 
hand, a man’s riches avail him nothing, apart from providing a 
couple of shrouds to serve as his winding sheets. This is all the 
return they render him, after which they find another friend 
with whom to make merry. Now the second friend is wife and 
children, to whom men are passionately attached, making all 
manner of effort and exhausting both mind and body for their 
sake; but on the day of his death, they can avail a man nothing, 
except that they will undertake a short journey as far as his 
tomb and then turn back to look after their own affairs and bury 
his memory in oblivion. But the third friend, the one that was 
completely neglected, is the company of good deeds; love, 
mercy, faith, trust, holiness and similar virtues which can 
accompany us and deliver us on the day of judgment, returning 
with interest whatever little kindnesses we have rendered. This 
then is the image of this world and those that love it.' 

16. The king’s son said to him: ‘I realize that you are making 
the whole truth known to me, and it is perfectly clear to my 
mind. Tell me now how the world exercises its deceit, and how 
a person can elude it.’ 


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The trumpet of death 


The King for One Year 

Balahvar said to him : ‘I will tell you, O prince, how to elude 
worldly temptation. — This calls to mind the citizens of a certain 
town, whose annual custom it was to bring in a foreigner who 
knew nothing of their traditions, and set him up as king within 
their city. And the benighted man would imagine that his reign 
over them was permanent for all time. So he would begin to eat 
and drink and be merry with never a care, for the citizens let 
him follow his own will and pleasure throughout his year of 
office, without giving him any inkling of their peculiar ways. 
But when one year had expired, the citizens would invade his 
mansion, strip him bare and drive him out naked and ashamed 
into exile in a foreign country. There the king would be left 
without food, drink or clothing or any form of solace. And thus 
his previous luxury and merrymaking would turn into repen- 
tance and woe. — Such then was their regular custom. 

‘Now on one occasion they elected a certain man to be king 
over them, according to their custom. But this man was a person 
of intelligence. When they set him up as their ruler, he realized 
that he was but an alien in their midst and placed no trust in 
them. So he looked for some man who could counsel him how to 
act towards his subjects. When he had found a reliable man who 
knew the custom of those citizens, the king confided his problem 
to him, mentioning his alien status among them and his lack of 
confidence towards them. Then that man gave him the following 
advice : “I will tell you how you should proceed. Start by remov- 
ing as much as you can from the treasure houses under your 
control— gold, precious stones and choice carbuncles, and all 
manner of valuables — and send them off for safe custody to that 
foreign land whither they relegate their kings after stripping 
and banishing them. When they drive you out, as their custom 
is, you will find everything which you have sent on in advance, 
and be able to enjoy it all the more in complete security, without 
suffering the regret and sorrow which have afflicted your royal 

‘So the king did as that sensible and wise man advised him. 
When his year had expired, the citizens rose against him, 
stripped him, and banished him to that foreign land according to 




their custom. There he recovered everything which he had sent 
on ahead. From now on he passed his time in merrymaking and 
luxury without stint, and had no more fear or concern for those 
fickle citizens; nor did he have to rue the prospect of a lifetime 
of destitution. 

‘Now that city is this vain world, and the citizens are the 
devils who control this world of darkness. 1 These entice us with 
manifold allurements, and mankind in its folly imagines its 
enjoyment to be everlasting. Now I pray to Christ to make me 
resemble that good counsellor, and you to be like that wise and 
sensible king who placed no trust in those foreign citizens and 
was not duped by the regal status which they conferred upon 
him. Henceforth you too must strive to escape such terrible 
snares as these, for I have shown you the way and you have no 
excuse for further negligence/ 

17. Iodasaph said: ‘I place my trust in Christ, the Son of God, 
and in your holy prayers, that I may be the sort of man you 
have in mind. Justly have you exposed to me the shortcomings 
of this world. Now I know that the semblance of this world is 
transient. My own personal experience has already inspired me 
with contempt for it, but your discourse has strongly increased 
my detestation of it. Tell me now, does every man of your 
country understand the affairs of this world as you do, and speak 
of them in the same terms as you yourself?’ 

Balahvar answered: ‘No; but I belong to that company of 
persons who are devoted to Christ, the God of all men. We have 
abandoned this world to those who are fond of it, and have 
withdrawn to remote desert places and mountains to practise the 
exercises and customs of the monks, which is the similitude and 
image of the angels. Originally we were subjects of your father. 
But when he learnt of our feats and assemblies, he was horrified 
and took fright, for he imagined that we were plotting to seize 
his temporal authority. His opinion about us was derived from 
his courtiers, who shared in his luxury and regal majesty. It was 
they who incited him to banish us, kill us and burn us with fire. 
And your father did so, because we despise him and have 
selected for ourselves a greater king, namely Jesus Christ. 

1 Cf. Ephesians, vi.12. 



Iodasaph enquired: 'Why then did the whole nation turn 
hostile towards you, and ready to slander your companions?’ 
Balahvar replied : ‘Their hostility was indeed quite as great 
as you have heard say. But how could their slander affect a class 
of men who speak and lie not; who pray and sleep not; who fast 
and feed not; who suffer privation and falter not; and who give 
thanks for what is good and feel no jealousy for those things on 
account of which mankind is jealous?’ 

Iodasaph said : 'In what respect are such men free of jealousy?’ 
Balahvar answered: ‘The ascetics feel no jealousy either in 
regard to possessions or to wives and children, and nobody need 
entertain any fear that they harbour designs on either their 
wealth or their womenfolk. Human enmity has its sole basis in 
men's struggle to amass treasure, each one more than his neigh- 


Dogs attd Carrion 

18. Iodasaph said to him: ‘How is it then that people have 
conspired together to treat you and your comrades so despite- 
fully? For it is clear that men are themselves at loggerheads 
regarding their own affairs ! ’ 

Balahvar answered him: ‘It is because seekers after worldly 
bliss, however envious and hostile they may be to one another, 
yet confine their enmity to transitory matters. Towards the 
believers who serve Christ Our God, however, they behave like 
dogs of various hues, gathered together from divers places and 
crowding round some carrion and biting at each other. But as 
soon as they catch sight of a wayfarer passing by, they stop 
snapping at each other and all with one accord co-operate in 
attacking him, for they imagine this man to be coming along 
with designs on their carrion. This idea of theirs arises from their 
greed and gluttony. As soon as they notice that man’s alien 
presence among them, they make common cause against him, 
although they were previously at enmity; and they fail to realize 
that this carrion of theirs is quite valueless to him. 

‘Such are the lovers of this world, who have chosen it in. 
preference to paradise. They devour one another and shed their 
blood for its sake; and in this occupation they waste their days, 

83 : 


engrossed in the quest after worldly honour and glory, and 
deathly envy dwells constantly within their hearts. But when 
they observe those people who are foes to this world and have 
no care other than to free themselves from it and have no share 
in their worldly ambitions, then they imagine those persons are 
setting a trap for them with ulterior motive; for they attribute 
to the believers in Christ their own treacherous mentality. This 
is why they conspire together to maintain enmity towards us; 
they have adopted this attitude because of their lack of under- 
standing, and have persuaded your father that the sole aim of 
our company is to foment opposition to his regime. Your father 
has failed to grasp the true facts, namely that the majesty and 
glory of his royal estate are low and despicable in the eyes of 
true believers in Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and most of all to 
genuine monks, who view his life of luxury as something 
detestable, and are perpetually scandalized to see how his mind 
has become dominated by the delights of this world/ 


Physician and Patient 

19. Iodasaph said to Balahvar: 'Enough of mere words! Begin 
to proclaim the message of salvation ! ’ 

Balahvar replied: 'When a skilled physician sees a body 
deranged by grievous ailments and wishes to restore it to health, 
he does not attempt to build up the flesh by gorging it with food 
and drink. For he knows that if food and drink are mixed with 
the corrupt humours, they would disagree with the system and 
harm the body rather than doing it any good. But those through 
whom God in His providence operates the conquest of disease 
will rather impose a regime and administer medicine. 

'As soon as the distemper and the corrupt humour have been 
expelled through God’s grace, then it is that they will nourish 
the patient with food and drink; and straightway the palate will 
acquire a relish for good cheer, and he whose death God wishes 
to avert will be restored to health.’ 

20. Iodasaph said to him: 'Tell me, holy father Balahvar, how 
did you begin to attain this degree of austerity, and how did you 
embark on the monastic career ? ' 



The holy Balahvar answered : ‘When I was still absorbed in 
this worldly life, I observed the vicissitudes to which people were 
subject in their business and family affairs, appearing as if caught 
in a snare before the onset of disaster. When I noticed how short 
a time they spent in enjoyment and what a tremendous effort 
they made to obtain it, I repented of my previous folly and 
excess of error. Accordingly I set out to replace my blindness by 
righteousness and to cultivate my reason. Lifting up my eyes, I 
analyzed my own nature, that I might restore my depraved 
character to its pristine purity and attain to the estate of the 
holy fathers. I trained my heart day by day, until it was con- 
verted to love Christ and yearn for virtue. Then I began to wean 
my desires and appetites away from their accustomed habits, and 
got them under my own control. I found it hard to submit to the 
laws of the faith and the delights of endurance until the murk 
of darkness was stripped away from my eyes and the intoxica- 
tion of futility dissipated, and I could boldly resist all pleasurable 
allurements. Then I beheld the shamefulness of the way of life 
which I now eschewed. I realized clearly how superior was the 
way of life which I had now taken up, my yearning for which 
waxed all the greater. I treated myself like a shepherd tends his 
flock, meting out pasture to the obedient and the disobedient for 
them to graze on according to their deserts. Thus did I govern 
my own nature, sometimes rewarding it for its endurance, some- 
times chastening it fpr its lack of perseverence, until I had forti- 
fied those qualities which I held dear and eliminated those which 
I deemed detestable.' 

Iodasaph enquired ‘This message which you and your asso- 
ciates proclaim and preach — is it something which you yourselves 
sought out by your own wisdom and knowledge, and on dis- 
covering it to be true, adopted it in preference to all other codes 
of conduct? Or did God Himself make His voice heard to you, 
eliciting this response from you ? ’ 

Balahvar declared: ‘This matter is loftier and more exalted 
than the wisdom of this world. Had this beauteous vocation of 
monasticism been established by worldly wisdom, its path would 
have been easy and broad. Had it been created by human 
ingenuity, it would have invited people to love this world too, 
with all its allurements and delights. But in fact this is some- 
thing alien to the world, being proclaimed publicly by the true 



Godhead, and able to overcome all forces hostile to God and 
crush temptations which lead to self-indulgence; it is a creed 
which is hostile to pleasure and numbs the enjoyment of it, and 
summons men to obey the will of Jesus Christ Our Lord. It is 
manifest that this is an ordinance of the King of heaven and 
earth, who reigns jointly with the Father and the Holy Ghost, 
for it is more sublime than any utterance of men and loftier than 
human nature and vision. God revealed this holy creed by the 
mouth of the holy apostles and prophets to certain men, and to 
these were granted faith and salvation; verily were they con- 
firmed through the holy apostles in a life wondrous and like 
unto that of the angels/ 

The Sun of Wisdom 

21. Iodasaph said: ‘What is that wisdom which is praised for 
its excellence and perfection and filled with every honourable 
power? And how is it that not everyone benefits from it? 

The holy Balahvar said : ‘The image of that wisdom resembles 
the sun, which shines upon all mankind, great and small alike; no 
one is debarred from deriving benefit from it, nor is anyone who 
so wishes hindered from enjoying its warmth or stretching out 
his hand towards its beams. But if someone chooses not to enjoy 
it, the sun is not to blame. The same applies to wisdom among 
men until the day of the resurrection, for its light shines upon 
all men like the light of the sun, and is readily accessible to all. 

‘However, men surpass one another in this, just as one pearl 
is worth many hundred shillings and another only two shillings . 1 
But whoever shall seek after wisdom and find it and shall cherish 
that spiritual wisdom, fulfilling it not with lip-service only but 
in deed, that man shall be like a pearl of great price; and if some- 
one shall fail to discover that great pearl, then even a little one, 
however insignificant, is not without value.’ 

Iodasaph said : ‘Is there any form of wisdom which its seekers 
fail for a long time to attain, but then light upon by some happy 

Balahvar replied : ‘This is the case with most men engaged in 

'The Arabic refers to the coin in question as a dirhem, the Georgian as a 



the pursuit of wisdom, for wisdom falls into a number of 
categories. Some of these are close at hand and straightforward, 
others are remote and hard of access; some are evident, and 
others concealed; some are conspicuous and others profound. 
Wisdom is like springs of water, some trickling gently from the 
depths of the earth and others gushing into the air like fountains 
to the height of a man or the length of a lance; some flow out 
of profound chasms, and others from waterless deserts in the 
depths of which no moisture can be descried. Then again, springs 
of water are of many different qualities. Some are shallow, sweet 
and agreeable; some suffer from being remote, turgid and in 
scant supply; others combine the virtues of being pleasant, near 
at hand and abundant in their flow/ 

22. Iodasaph said : ‘Do you know of anyone besides yourselves 
who has been urging people to quit this transitory world and 
spurn its pleasures?' 

Balahvar replied : 'In this country we are alone in this minis- 
try, and apart from us there is no one. In other lands there are 
righteous men who profess to propagate the true faith in their 
own language and to preach the message of truth. But many of 
their projects have ended in ruin. Some of them fulfil the divine 
word in their conduct, but others behave in a way quite incom- 
patible with their professed beliefs. Most of them are in fact 
deluded 1 both in conduct and in doctrine, and their doings have 
nothing in common with ours.’ 

Iodasaph said : ‘How can one be assured that the gospel you 
preach is truer than theirs ? How did you and they gain know- 
ledge of the truth?' 

Balahvar answered him : ‘Every true doctrine is vouchsafed to 
man by Jesus Christ, for He called on all men to follow Him. 
Some heard His voice and responded to it, adopting in its 
entirety the doctrine and creed which He preached. And when 
it was ripe, they offered the fruit thereof as a sacrifice to God, as 
was fitting. But some there were whose characters lacked forti- 
tude and perseverance, so that they faltered, languished and 
perished. Now what common ground can there be between a 
preserver and a destroyer, a builder and a wrecker, between one 

‘In the Jerusalem manuscript, the scribe has added a marginal note here: 
‘By “deluded persons”, the blessed Balahvar is referring to heretics.’ 

S 7 


who stands fast and one who abandons the struggle? Nobody 
must proclaim the gospel message unless it be based on the 
preaching of truth ! Their new-fangled heresies have set up a 
barrier between them and ourselves, and they have chosen these 
in preference to the life eternal. 

‘Originally men received the gospel message directly from the 
prophets and the first apostles, who preserved it true and 
inviolate and preached the faith in unity of belief. While the 
prophet is still alive, proclaiming his message and denouncing 
the sins of mankind in God’s name, no man can plead ignorance 
as an excuse when he is called before God’s judgment seat. The 
prophet makes atonement to God, and the people abide in 
righteousness and cleave for many years to His creed, law and 
authority. But later on, men rose up in revolt. They committed 
crimes, spurned prayer and gave free rein to their desires. Science 
was extinguished and scholars robbed of their learning. Hardly 
any of the sages survived, and the few who remained were 
treated with contempt by the untutored rabble. Wisdom was 
quenched and folly shone forth brightly. 

‘During these events, that generation passed away and 
another arose, which had no conception of the cause of true 
learning. So ignorance began to radiate and be diffused abroad, 
and knowledge to wane and be extinguished. The words of Holy 
Writ were falsified and their power perverted, and men aban- 
doned the path of righteousness. People professed and interpreted 
the words of the sacred books in whatever sense they pleased. 
While clinging to the letter of the law, they abandoned its 
correct application. None the less, the word of truth endured, 
which even our adversaries received from the fountain head, and 
which the apostles preached. At the present time, we too accept 
those writings, but we oppose the fraud of the heretics, who only 
profess to accept the substance of Holy Writ, but are not worthy 
to establish the truth of it .’ 1 

1 This rather cryptic passage provides undeniable evidence of the 
Manichaean origins of much of the Barlaam and Josaphat romance. As 
Professor W. B. Henning has pointed out, the ‘prophetology’ in the corres- 
ponding passage of the Arabic version ‘compellingly recalls authentic 
Manichaean writings’. (‘Persian poetical manuscripts from the time of Rudaki, 
in A Locust’s Leg. Studies in honour of S. H. Taqizadth, London, 1961, p. 93.) 
Dr E. M. Boyce kindly drew my attention to an ancient Manichaean text from 
Central Asia, in which the idea of the inevitable corruption of earlier, inferior 



23. Balahvar concluded by saying: 'I imagine that nobody has 
ever told all this to your father in his life, nor has anyone acted 
towards him with sincerity or made any real effort to make him 
understand these matters.’ 

Iodasaph answered : ‘Why have the wise men taken no steps 
to approach him all this time ? ' 

Balahvar replied : ‘Because they knew they must wait for the 
right time and place before speaking their minds. Sometimes 
wise men have shrunk from reproaching people who were more 
amiable and receptive of justice and argument than your father 
is. It can happen that one man may be intimately associated 
with another for a very long time, and they may be on the most 
friendly terms with one another, and differ only on some ques- 
tions of religion and philosophy. But even though the wise man 
may be very sorry for his deluded friend, yet he may never get 
round to revealing to him the secret of the wisdom which he 

Iodasaph exclaimed: ‘How can such a thing occur?' 

religions after the death of their founder is explicitly stated. In this passage, 
Mani himself writes : 

The religion which I have devised is in ten respects superior and better 
compared with the other, earlier religions [e.g. Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and 

‘Firstly: The earlier religions existed only in a single country and in a 
single language. My religion on the other hand is such that it will make its 
appearance in every country and in every tongue, and be taught in the 
furthest lands. 

‘Secondly : The earlier creeds continued in force only so long as their actual 
founders were there to direct them in person. But when their founders passed 
away, then their religious communities fell into confusion and became remiss 
in their precepts and works . . . 

‘But my religion, thanks to its good organization through the living scrip- 
tures, as well as through the agency of teachers, bishops, Elect and Hearers, 
and through wisdom and works, will last until the end of the world . . . 

(See F. C. Andreas and Walter Henning, ‘Mitteliranische Manichaica aus 
Chinesisch-Turkestan, IT, in Sitzungsberichte der Prcussischen Akademie dcr 
Wissenschaften, Phil.-Hist. Klasse, Berlin, 193}, VII, pp. 4- 5: also al-Biruni, 
The Chronology of Ancient Nations, trans. C. E. Sachau, London, 1879, p. 190.) 

The general question of the Manichaean origins of the Barlaam romance is 
also discussed in D. M, Lang, The Wisdom of Balahvar, London, 1957, pp. 24-9- 




The King and the Happy Poor Couple 

Balahvar said : ‘Here is a parable concerning a certain king who 
governed his realm with wisdom and sagacity, made great efforts 
to secure public tranquillity, and administered the temporal 
affairs of his kingdom as befits those monarchs who are inspired 
by love for their people. Now that king had a counsellor, a 
virtuous and upright man who eschewed all evil-doing, and con- 
stantly encouraged the king to adopt righteous and beneficent 
measures towards his subjects. Now this man was initiated into 
the rites of the true faith and had frequent meetings with wise 
people who had abandoned the life of this world. He was more- 
over a man of careful and sound judgment, and used to speak to 
the king with the utmost candour, though without revealing 
his personal secret to him. And so he remained a secret adherent 
of God’s righteous cause. 

‘Now when this minister saw the king bowing down in front 
of idols and celebrating their solemn festivals, he was deeply 
grieved, like a man who grieves for his own son when the devil 
holds him in his clutches. Often he desired to discuss religion 
with him, and he consulted his friends about the problem. But 
they said : “You are the person most familiar with his intimate 
thoughts, and if you find an opportunity, then you might have 
a word with him. But be on your guard, for the devil is unsleep- 
ing in the cause of evil, and it would be a bad thing if Satan 
were to alienate the king’s affections from you and incite him 
to persecute your associates.” 

‘As the minister sorrowed greatly for the king’s sake, he 
watched for a good moment to utter a word of warning to him. 
A long time went by like this, until one night the king said to 
his counsellor : “Come, let us go for a walk in the town, so that 
we may see how the people are faring ! ” In the course of their 
walk through the city, they came upon a large garbage mound . 1 

1 This parable has its roots in the popular traditions of Baghdad in the time 
of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786-809), who was renowned for his habit of 
walking incognito round the city at night and observing the behaviour of his 
subjects. The episode of feasting, dancing and love-making in a giant rubbish 
heap has its parallel in the Arabian Nights, where the wife of an ensorcelled 
prince makes love to a loathsome negro in a cave dug out of a giant refuse 
mound. (See The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, trans. Sir Richard 



And the king saw a ray of light, as of a fire, issuing forth. So the 
king and his counsellor turned aside to look at this. When they 
drew near, they discovered a man who had hollowed out a kind 
of cave inside the mound of refuse and was sitting within it 
together with his spouse. They were wearing ragged clothes, like 
those of beggars. As they gazed upon this sight, the sound of 
singing was heard coming forth. When they examined the 
interior of the cavern, they saw that the man was at table seated 
on a pile of manure, while the woman poured out wine for him, 
danced before him and flattered him with praises such as befit 
kings. She called him “My Lord”, and he addressed her as “My 
Queen”, and they both sang each other’s praises and were gay 
and merry in their mutual affection. 

‘The monarch and his minister looked on for a long time and 
observed their behaviour attentively, watching how they passed 
their time in good cheer amid such squalid conditions. When the 
king and his counsellor left those people, they went away filled 
with amazement. And the king said to his companion : “Never 
have we found our life so desirable, nor have we enjoyed it with 
such relish as that poor wretch whom we have seen in the 
rubbish heap along with his wife. And I suppose that all their 
days are passed in the same fashion.” 

‘The minister now took his chance to have a talk with the 
king, and said to him : “Do you not appreciate, 0 king, that the 
glory and dominion in which we ourselves revel are just as value- 
less and contemptible in the eyes of those who know the eternal 
glory and dominion which God will prepare for those who love 
Him? The gold-sculpted mansions which we build, the beauty 
of paintings and the splendour of our raiment- — all these things 
are despised by those who see the temples of the life hereafter 
not made by hand, and celestial raiment invisible to the eye; and 
they consider these luxuries of ours just as worthless as we find 
the squalor in which those poor folk lead their lives. And the 
complacency which we feel in our exalted station is no less 
ridiculous than the self-esteem of those paupers, which we 
viewed with critical and amazed eyes.” 

F. Burton, I, pp. 71-73.) Sir Richard Burton adds a note to his translation of 
this passage, pointing out that some of the rubbish heaps which outlie Eastern 
cities, particularly those around Cairo, are over a hundred feet high. 



‘The king said to him: “Are there then wise men who are 
versed in such matters?" 

‘The other replied: “There are indeed men who serve God and 
have abandoned this world and spurned every aspect of temporal 
life; and they dwell now in the wilderness, in the mountains and 
in catacombs for the love of Christ. They have caught a glimpse 
of the life eternal and have fallen in love with it, after testing 
out this world and finding all its glory to be transitory.” 

‘The king asked: “Now what is the nature of that eternal 

‘The counsellor replied: “The eternal realm is bliss not 
followed by wretchedness; it is joy not followed by sorrow; it is 
health not followed by sickness; it is royalty which has no end. 
It is tranquillity not pursued by fear, and life not interrupted by 
death; and it is a land of things imperishable, whose inhabitants 
receive their desire without any toil or anxiety.” 

‘The king said : “Can any man be worthy to live there ? How 
can a person gain entry to this place ?” 1 

‘The counsellor said to the king : “The gate of Christ is barred 
against no one who seeks to enter in thereby.” 

‘The king said : “What road leads there ? ” 

‘The counsellor answered : “The service of the Holy Trinity, 
which gave birth to all created things, and renunciation of every 
cult but this.” 

‘The king said : “What has prevented you up till now from 
telling me about this road?” 

‘The counsellor said: “It was not through any infidelity of 
my own that I deferred the matter until now, nor was I dis- 
couraged by any lack of perception on your part, because you 
are perfect in every respect. But the awe of your royal majesty 
held me back.” 

‘The king said : “If what you have told me be true, we must 
lose no time in following it up with all possible speed and effort. 
If there be any doubt, then we must work hard until we discover 
what truth there is in it. But it was very wrong of you to keep 
this subject hidden from me, especially in view of the complete 
trust I place in you.” 

‘The minister answered: “Is it now your command that I 

1 Here the copyist has added a note : ‘Christ have mercy on David, Amen.’ 



should regularly inform and remind you about this matter from 
time to time?” 

‘The king said : “Not from time to time, but incessantly ! You 
and I must keep watch vigilantly day and night, for this is a 
matter of marvellous import. It would be shameful to allow such 
a treasure to perish through neglect; rather must it be tended 
with fervent zeal.” ’ 

And the holy Balahvar added: ‘We have heard tell that after 
this, the king and his counsellor departed in peace from out of 
this earthly life.' 

24. Iodasaph exclaimed: ‘No longer has my mind any love 
whatever for this world, nor will I occupy myself any more with 
its affairs. But I long for the life eternal, and intend to cleave to 
you and follow you wherever you go, and endure the austerity 
of your way of life.’ 


The Rich Youth and the Poor Maiden 

The holy Balahvar said : ‘If you do this, you will be like that 
rich bridegroom who received a poor man as his father-in-law. — 
For we have heard that once there lived a certain youth, son of 
a wealthy man. And his father arranged for him to wed a beauti- 
ful and rich maiden from among his own kinsfolk. But the 
young man refused to marry her, and arose and fled away from 
his father’s face. In the course of his wanderings, he caught sight 
of a poor man’s daughter, dressed in humble garments, sitting 
on the threshold of her cottage. While busily engaged on her 
handwork, she was offering up thanks and praises to God. 

‘The youth asked her: “Who are you, O maiden, and for 
what blessings are you thanking God?” 

‘But she said to him : “Do not you know that a little medicine 
saves a person from many forms of illness? Likewise, to be 
thankful for small mercies can win us greater blessings. As for 
me, I am the daughter of a poor old man.” 

‘Then the youth called out to her old father. When he came 
out, the young man said to him : “Are you willing to give this 
daughter of yours to be my wife?” 



‘The old man replied : “A poor man’s daughter is not fit to he 
your bride, for you are a rich man’s son.” 

‘The young man said: “I have perceived the wisdom and 
intelligence of your daughter, and will be overjoyed to take her 
as my wife. Behold, a daughter born of rich parents was 
betrothed to me, but I refused her. Now pray fulfil my request, 
and you will find me an excellent son-in-law, if the Lord so will 

‘The old man said to him : ‘‘However much you long to wed 
my daughter, you will never be able to take her home to your 
father’s mansion.” 

‘The youth answered him: “Then I shall settle down here 
among you, and adopt your manner of life.” 

“However, that old man possessed a great store of hidden 
wealth. And the youth entered the old man’s house, stripped off 
his apparel, and put on poor men’s raiment. Then the old man 
began to test him and weigh up his understanding. When he 
had found him to be wise and intelligent in every respect, the 
old man realized that it was no frivolous infatuation that had 
led the youth to embrace a life of poverty. So he took him by the 
hand and led him into his treasure house and showed him all his 
riches and the beauties of that place, which were such that the 
young man had never seen in his entire life. And he said to him : 
“Son, all this is yours ! ” And thenceforward that youth enjoyed 
himself there in gaiety and delight.’ 

25. Iodasaph said: ‘I pray to Christ the Son of God that this 
parable may be applied to me. But I understand you to state 
that the old man tested that youth’s understanding. How then 
do you propose to test my intelligence?' 

Balahvar said: ‘Fear God, and follow His command all the 
days of your life, and renounce all the sins of the world. God will 
not rob you of the reward of your efforts, neither will He assist 
any dubious enterprise. You must grow in strength, for God 
does not test a man beyond his capacity. Remember the Lord day 
by day, perfect your mind, and tackle all problems after careful 
reflection. Do not be content to adopt the first inspiration which 
comes your way simply because it is an agreeable one. nor sh rink 
from the revelation of truth because it seems severe. Test out the 
fibre of your heart, that you may not succumb to doubt. Do not 



hasten to blurt out the first ideas which enter your head, until 
you have had time to test them out calmly and cautiously. Let 
not your mind incline towards wilfulness and passion, lest you 
lose faith in virtue and succumb to evil. Now I shall pray for 
your sake to the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of the 
heavens and the earth, the Being who is firm and unshakeable 
and of the same substance as the Holy Ghost, having no end, 
terrible and gracious, mighty and merciful, invisible and 
inexpressible, benevolent in His royalty, omniscient and not 
oblivious, and powerful above all other beings. He is without 
fault, and whatever He promises He carries out without deceit. 
He cherishes all and abandons none. Before Him tremble all 
created beings, who kneel with bended neck before the terrible 
presence of His divine majesty. I shall beseech God that He will 
cleanse you, to be a true mentor of righteousness, an exemplary 
model of reverence, a giver of sight to the blind, of hearing to 
the deaf, a reproach to the idle and a foe of the world, a lover of 
the saints and detester of sinful passions, until He causes you to 
attain with us to that abode which Christ has promised us with 
His truth-giving lips — to that unimaginable kingdom of His, of 
which no man has heard, invisible to our eyes; for great is the 
trust which we place in Christ’s mercies, great our dread of the 
torments which He metes out to sinners. Our eyes are directed 
towards Him, and our necks bowed down before Him.’ 

The holy Balahvar’s words affected Iodasaph deeply, and his 
heart welled over and he began to sob. Then he said to Balahvar : 
‘How old are you, holy Father?’ 

He answered : ‘I am twelve years old ! ’ 

Iodasaph exclaimed : ‘How can you tell me this ? For I can 
see that you are an elderly man, and you must surely be about 
sixty years of age.' 

Balahvar replied : ‘Counting from the time I was born, I am 
sixty years old, but you are asking me about the span of my 
life. Now life denotes the condition of being alive, and there is 
no live existence outside the faith of Christ and His works. And 
in these I had no part until twelve years ago.’ 

Iodasaph said to him : ‘How can you treat a person who eats 
and drinks and walks about as a dead man ? ' 

Balahvar replied: ‘It is because such a one partakes of the 
nature of the dead by his blindness, deafness and weakness, his 



inability to help himself or to appreciate the good things of God, 
such as health and the aspiration towards virtuous ways. 1 If in 
his conduct a man chooses to belong to the dead, he must expect 
to share their name into the bargain.’ 

Iodasaph said : 'If you do not consider your previous life to be 
any life at all, it follows that you cannot consider the death 
which lies before us to be death either, nor regard it as an evil.’ 

Balahvar said : ‘Does not the risk that I incur in visiting you 
provide evidence of this? For I am well aware of your father’s 
hostility towards me. But I regard death in no sense as an evil, 
but rather as life eternal.’ 

26. Iodasaph said : Tell me a parable about this nation of ours, 
and its steadfast attachment to idols.' 


The Fowler and the Nightingale 

Balahvar answered : ‘Those who believe in idols are like a certain 
man who caught a nightingale, as our fabulist relates, and 
wanted to kill her. But that nightingale was endowed with the 
power of speech, and she said : “Why do you wish to kill me ? 
For you cannot satisfy your appetite on me! But if you will 
release me, I will teach you three precepts, and these will be of 
greater value to you than all your possessions if only you will 
abide by them.” 

‘So she persuaded the man to let her go, on condition that she 
told him those precepts. When he had released her, the nightin- 
gale said : “These are my precepts : 

Do not seek for the unattainable; 

Do not regret what is past; 

Never believe what passes belief.” 

‘After he had let her go, the nightingale wanted to test that 
man, to see whether he had profited by her precepts. So she said 

1 Ilia Abuladze’s edition, p. J7, 1. 7, has sikharulit'a ‘by joy’. S. Qaukhchish- 
vili (fiizantiuri literaturis istoria, p. 216) reads siquarulit'a ‘by love’, but points 
out that the correct reading must be siqruit‘a ‘by deafness’, to fit in with the 
context, as well as with the Arabic version, which refers to ‘blindness, deaf- 
ness, etc.’ 



to him: “If only you had known what a treasure has slipped 
through your hands ! For in my crop there is a pearl as big as an 
ostrich egg.” 

‘When the man heard this statement, he wept with mortifica- 
tion at having released her, and wanted to catch her again. So he 
said to her : “Come into my home, and I will look after you well 
and send you on your way with honour.” 

‘But the nightingale answered him : “O ignorant fellow, you 
caught me and could not hold me; I taught you, and you could 
not take in the lesson I gave you in exchange for my freedom. 
What about those maxims I taught you? Here you are now, 
ruing having set me free, which is something that is past; you 
are seeking for the unattainable, namely to recapture me; and 
believing something which passes belief, namely that I have in 
my crop a pearl bigger than my own self. Fancy not realizing 
that my entire body is not the size of an ostrich egg ! ” — From 
then onwards that man took to heart those words of hers and 
profited by them. 

‘Equally ridiculous is the faith which men place in idols : for 
these are things made by human hands, and yet men declare : 
“These are our creators ! ” They safeguard these gods of theirs 
from being stolen by thieves, yet they say: “These are our 
guardians from evil ! ” They squander their wealth on them, 
saying: “These are our foster-parents!” They seek to receive 
from them that which they can never find, and believe them to 
possess qualities which can never be theirs.’ 

Iodasaph said: ‘This parable truly conveys the nature of 
idols, which are wholly loathsome to me. I have no faith in 
them, and your speech has aroused my hatred of them to greater 
intensity. But what is the faith to which you call me ? What is 
this creed which you yourself have chosen to follow ? ’ 

Balahvar said to him : ‘Here is the basis of this creed which 
I have chosen. — There exists one Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a 
Trinity of three persons and one divine essence, and not a multi- 
plicity of godheads. God alone is King, and all things beside Him 
form His kingdom; He alone is the Creator, all others are created; 
He alone is timeless, all others are temporal; He alone is strong, 
all others are weak; He alone is high, all others are low. He is 
ever vigilant, omniscient and omnipotent to do and achieve all 
things which He wills. “All things were made by Him ; and 



BARLAAM and josaphat 

without Him was not any thing made that was made.” 1 Un- 
touched by the passage of time and unchanging from one place 
to another, all space is filled with His presence, gracious and 
merciful as He is, and full of love and justice towards men. And 
He has prepared abodes of joy for those that obey Him, and 
abodes of torment for the disobedient. Now may He, made mani- 
fest in the Trinity and worshipped in one essence, make you a 
seeker out of His will, that you may live through the power of 
His undivided nature. If you observe His commands, then you 
shall attain as is fitting to knowledge of His truth/ 

27. Iodasaph asked : ‘What kind of deeds are pleasing to God?' 

Balahvar said to him: ‘It is God’s will that whatever you 
would desire for yourself, you should do unto your neighbour; 
and whatever you would not desire, you should not do unto 
another. Observe Christ’s teachings and abide in prayer 2 [and 
supplication day and night, and you shall have His Cross for the 
vanquishing of your foes; for it is thereby that He has saved me 
from the pains of death/ 

Iodasaph said to Balahvar : ‘By observing the commandments, 
shall a man fulfil God’s will?’ 

Balahvar said : ‘Yes, he shall fulfil it indeed/ 

— ‘Seeing that there are such excellent things in the world, 
why then have you rejected them ? ' 

Balahvar said: ‘Two things impel us to do this. — Hrst, the 
fact that the supreme blessings of God cannot be compared with 
the trifling joys of the realms here below. And whoever shall 
strive, he shall receive the greater honour. A friend may well 
come to feel no small jealousy towards his fellow; after all, people 
who pay merely what tax is due are not on the same footing as 
those who give free bounty. 

‘The second is this : Beware of indulging in proffered delights, 
whereby one is involved in unseemly doings and incurs con- 
demnation. But if you shun them, you will receive peace and 
comfort abounding. If someone leads his herds too near the corn- 

1 John, i. 5. 

a Two folios are missing here from the Jerusalem manuscript of Ealavariani. 
The gap has been filled by inserting the corresponding passage from the 
shorter recension of the Georgian text. (The Wisdom of Balahvar, trans. D. M. 
Lang, London, 1957, pp. 901.) 



fields, he cannot feel secure, for if he dozes off or becomes care- 
less, the cattle will trample on the crops. It is only when he has 
driven them home away from the crops that he can sleep and 
rest with a quiet mind/ 

Iodasaph said : ‘What you are telling me is entirely true. Add 
however a further discourse to make me grow in hate and 
detestation of this world/ 

Balahvar said : ‘Let this be quite clear to you, that revulsion 
from the world reconciles man with God. Since this life is short, 
and the days and nights soon flow away, let us now make an 
effort to abandon the world voluntarily, for willy-nilly, we are 
fated to leave it sooner or later. Even if our life be long drawn 
out, death is yet in store for us. Then all a man’s possessions 
shall be scattered abroad and his lofty buildings ruined; and his 
name shall become unknown and his memory wiped out; and his 
body shall shrink away; for they shall carry him forth naked 
from his dwelling-place and consign him to the dark cavern and 
lay him down by himself in a strange place, forsaken in his 
wretched state by those that hate him. And everyone shall 
abandon and revile him, even his wife, brethren and children.' 

28. At this, Iodasaph wept and said : ‘Your words have pierced 
my heart ! Now speak to me about salvation/ 

Balahvar continued : ‘Even I, O king’s son, was greatly fond 
of this world and absorbed in its delights. But when I had taken 
thought and seen the vicissitudes] 1 which beset those that dwell 
in it, and how all men must leave it at last, I realized that no 
one can endure therein permanently, neither the great man by 
his greatness, nor the strong man by his strength, nor the clever 
man by his cleverness, nor the wise man by his wisdom. I per- 
ceived that I am a mere mortal just as they, and must pass away 
just as they passed away, and my place will be taken by others 
just as theirs were. Since I am no greater than the great nor 
stronger than the strong, whatever has befallen them must 
befall me also. I learnt that everything which has been amassed 
must be scattered and everv treasure cast to the ■winds. Only the 
fear of God and the learning of His commands can deliver us 

1 At this point we resume our translation from the Jerusalem manuscript, in 
the edition of Professor Ilia Abuladze. 


irum eternal cunaexunauon. ixus is uie umy cunuuct wmui wu 
relieve our penitence at death’s approach. When I had realized 
all this, I sought out for myself some better way of life, and 
treated my own desires with utter contempt as being a source of 
sin, even though I found this very difficult. I renounced my 
ambitions and bridled them with the bridle of God's fear, that 
they might not lead me astray and plunge me into the distrac- 
tions of this vain world. 

‘And then I heard the voice of our Lord God, who has taught 
us in divinely inspired books, saying : “I have created this world 
and all its semblance as something transitory. Take up now 
provisions for the way, for you shall depart into a strange land. 
Since you shall certainly pass over into the world beyond, take 
heed that you carry nothing out of this world besides what you 
need on the road until you arrive there. I have prepared an 
eternal mansion, in which are two habitations. One of these 
abodes is supplied with everything unspeakably good and with 
all manner of delights; I have filled it with my bounty and 
benevolence, so that it may be a place of reward for those who 
have loved me and placed their faith in the voice of my prophets 
and observed my commandments, and therein they shall enjoy 
bliss imperishably and death shall have no hold over them, 
seeing that they are in a place where neither fear nor worldly 
care exists. But the second abode is full of tortures, suffering and 
hardship, with shame and envy, boiling over with wrath and 
anger, with which I shall mete out retribution on all those who 
hate me and have despitefully used my prophets, forgotten my 
commandments and turned their ears away from my words of 

‘When I heard God’s voice, I realized that His words are just 
and His commandments true. So I took up provisions for the 
way, so that I might attain to the abode of peace and bounty by 
good deeds and obeying the commandments. And now I flee 
from that fearsome abode by avoiding all acts of disobedience, 
although neither I nor any other of the great ones of the world 
are capable of attaining to that holy estate to bring about which 
Christ laid down His life upon the Cross, and in quest of which 
we must follow His example; for many are my sins and I live in 

* Here the copyist has added a note : ‘Deliver, O Lord, the soul of David 
from eternal condemnation.’ 



great dread lest the Holy Virgin Mary and all God’s saints with- 
hold their intercession from me.’ 1 

Iodasaph asked him: ‘How is it possible to attain to those 
good things of which you speak?’ 

Balahvar replied: ‘A man must quit the world and all pre- 
occupation with it, taking with him only what is absolutely 
essential. Beware of the last judgment and stand fast in God’s 
teaching. Affirm nothing before you have tried it out; for a little 
righteousness unmixed with sin is better than great virtues in 
which sin is also mingled. It is likewise better to speak only in 
moderation rather than over-eloquently, because in all wordiness 
there is an element of falsehood. It is a wise man’s duty to 
instruct his own self, just as a good pastor instructs his people, 
diligently managing their affairs by his efforts, shielding them 
from harmful influences, and then showing his esteem for those 
that are obedient. It likewise behoves a wise man to examine 
himself in all his deeds and impulses, and then mete out justice 
to his own self, after judging whether he has acted so as to merit 
reward or retribution. If his deeds are good, he may be pleased 
and gratified with himself; if he finds his own conduct worthless, 
then he must chasten himself with repentance. Similarly, an 
intelligent man must keep watch on his own impulses and per- 
fect his reason, and likewise use this reason of his to drive out 
evil. He must criticize himself and have enough sense to mistrust 
his own mental powers, lest his character become tainted with 
conceit. For God hates conceit and loves wisdom and humility, 
because it is through wisdom that man attains to virtue by God’s 
ordinance, and through ignorance that many souls perish. The 
chief source of fortitude is the fear of the Lord and walking in 
His ways. Likewise the chief of all evils is the pursuit of lusts 
and subservience to desires. When you are beset by thoughts 
which your brain is incapable of fathoming, do not struggle 
vainly to find a solution to them, for this may only unsettle your 
wits and befuddle your intellect. Try to be more relaxed, thus 
enabling your intellect to grasp and your soul to distinguish the 
supreme good. When confronted with some knotty problem, do 
not react with resentment or declare that it cannot be solved. 

1 Note by the copyist in the Manuscript : ‘O Christ, have mercy on Chita, 



Rather should you attempt to bring it to the most successful 

‘Know this too, that no single mortal can absorb all forms of 
knowledge. A wise man should not despise a mere smattering of 
knowledge, especially when he is unable to master the subject 
completely. Even the eyes of a sage cannot absorb the full 
brilliance of the sun. The few rays of the sun which he can stand 
are quite sufficient to guide him on his daily round. The excess 
radiance which he is unable to endure serves only to dazzle him 
and obstruct his vision. What man can eat every dish simul- 
taneously, and swallow every drink which he may see and 
fancy? Nobody is capable of digesting more than a small part of 
them ! But even without consuming vast quantities of every 
foodstuff, a person can appreciate delicate flavours and satisfy 
his appetite with meals of moderate size. 

‘Wisdom and virtue are of more importance and greater and 
more worthy than mere food, provided that a man’s eye is 
capable of focusing on them, his heart of absorbing them and his 
mind of profiting by them. This kind of excellence is harder of 
attainment than that which we have expounded through the 
metaphors of the sun and of food. God has ordained that wise 
men shall possess differing degrees of wisdom. But there is noth- 
ing to prevent each man from making use of wisdom according 
to his individual capacity. His failure to grasp the things he 
knows not does not hinder him from utilizing what little he 
does know.’ 

29. Iodasaph asked : ‘How should a man like myself set about 
ferreting out the truth from the doctrines of heretical sects?’ 

Balahvar replied : ‘By collecting together all the issues of doc- 
trine on which the conflicting sects are agreed, in so far as they 
profess belief in our Lord Jesus, and preserving those articles of 
faith over which they are not at variance. A selection should 
then be made, according to the following principle : firstly, by 
studying books and comparing examples, verification by the 
intelligence and confirmation by practical experience; then by 
rejecting what is dubious and not relying on human opinions. 
A man who persists in his purpose, wherever it may lead him, is 
in a better posture to cope with whatever situations he may 
encounter than one who arbitrarily adopts a position which 



conflicts with the dictates of his conviction and knowledge; tor 
he who stands on firm ground rests on the basis of truth and 
steers clear of error. But one who persists in wrong-headed deeds 
which conflict with his knowledge and conviction will un- 
doubtedly go astray. Such is the situation in this world, for the 
sum of human knowledge is greater than the sum of human 
ignorance. A man must do what good he knows how, and avoid 
what evils he can recognize as such. Let him be zealous and loyal 
to God by his behaviour both in secret and in public. When he 
shall do these things, God will open the gate of wisdom and 
reveal His will to him, and he shall easily undo the devil's most 
dangerous snares.’ 

Iodasaph asked : ‘How is a man to strive with zeal and loyalty 
in the faith ? ' 

Balahvar replied: ‘His aim should be to put aside from his 
heart the summons of desire and the distractions of lust, and 
devote his prime faculties to the affairs of the faith and true 
endurance and religion. When he does this, he shall win the 
fruit of knowledge and God will wipe out his sorrow and doubt.’ 
Iodasaph asked : ‘On such occasions must one be prepared for 
a long wait?’ 

Balahvar said to him : ‘That is so. However, there is no need 
to mistrust the first principles which a man learns. Let him train 
his reason to receive them through the medium of authentic 
teaching, representation and interpretation.’ 

Iodasaph said: ‘What would vou say if someone were to 
analyze a number of similar, parallel cases with all the labour 
and mental effort at his disposal, and still failed to distinguish 
truth from delusion? Will his perseverance be deemed sufficient, 
so that he may desist from his enquiry, with the prospect that 
God will reward him as highly as his fellows?’ 

Balahvar answered him : ‘Enquiry into every matter is a good 
thing. If a man cannot discover something which is past, he 
should carefully consider and persistently ferret out the present 
state of the business, until its nature is unveiled by true 
evidence, or revealed to him through long time spent in that 
enquiry. Let him not give up his trust in God, but wait rather 
for a revelation to come from God Himself. Meanwhile let him 
not be deterred from continuing his researches steadfastly, how- 
ever much the mind may boggle at a problem at the first encoun- 



ter. Provided that he applies himself with patience, pursues his 
enquiries steadfastly and with a good hope, and investigates the 
history of the business, his current doubts will be dissipated. 
Then he will be free from all doubt and mystery, until he can 
perceive the gate through which to enter in, and stray no more 
from the way of truth. A sage should not lose heart at his failure 
to gain admission through one door of knowledge, but should 
then proceed to make trial of a second. Nor should ignorance of 
one single aspect of a matter cause a man to abandon the subject 
altogether. No man can attain knowledge of everything he seeks; 
nor is all knowledge necessarily profitable, nor all ignorance 
invariably harmful.’ 

‘Now the devil’s most reliable traps are the two following 
devices : the first is to inspire the mind of a wise man with the 
idea that wisdom and reason have abandoned him, that there is 
no more profit for him in learning — in fact, that ignorance is no 
handicap to a man at all. The devil shows him a man revelling 
in the delights of the world, and says to his victim: “Behold 
now the honourable estate and the glory to which that other 
man has attained without any scholarly learning at all ! Why 
do you torment yourself and undergo such pain ? Drink, eat and 
be merry, for tomorrow you die ! 1 There is no point in going 
out to meet death of your own accord, before it first descends on 
you in its own good time.” — With this and similar barbs the 
devil pierces his heart through, and deters him from the pursuit 
of learning. He causes the man to glimpse vistas of opulence, so 
that he may be pursued by the habits of self-indulgence and 
haunted by temptations. 

‘But if the devil cannot prevail by this method, and observes 
that his victim has developed powers of resistance, he despatches 
from his quiver a second arrow, tipped with red-hot steel. When 
he realizes that his wiles are detected on the left flank, he directs 
his assault to the right flank of his victim’s armour and embarks 
on a plan of attack for which he is unprepared. And the evil one 
unleashes upon that man the spirit of disgust, until he makes 
him loathe every aspect of his life’s work and regard himself as 
contemptible, despicable and foolish. The wise man curses his 
own learning and reviles and ridicules his friends and mentors. 

'Isaiah, xxii. 13. 



Then the devil says to him : “You will never win success in this 
career of yours nor bring it to fulfilment, nor be strong enough 
to endure the weight of its discipline. So why are you torment- 
ing yourself and toiling away after an ambition which you can 
never attain?” Then the evil one adds: “If you aspire to perfect 
your virtue and not betray God, you must fast for forty days 
and go about constantly in ashes, sackcloth and tears.” — Such 
obstacles as these the devil places in people’s way, to make them 
lose heart and despair, and then succumb. Or else he exalts them 
beyond measure, and then casts them down to earth again. 

‘By inflicting such misery he clouds a man’s understanding, so 
that he can no longer judge accurately nor withstand the impact 
of temptation. Many mortals have been wounded and 
slaughtered by these two arrows, because the soul is quick to 
relish fruit which the reason cannot digest. For reason and desire 
are at enmity with one another, and are battling constantly for 
control of the soul. Desire is a kind friend to the soul, but reason 
is its severe mentor. For desire relieves all the soul’s troubles, 
lulls it with tempting allurements, and renders it oblivious to 
worry and fear. But reason invokes hardship and bids one live 
in misery; it banishes passions and reproves sin, showing how 
indulgence in the delights of this life opens the broad way to 
eternal torment in the future. It makes a man rue his past sloth, 
and condemns his future idleness. The soul is greatly inclined to 
follow the dictates of desire, but there are two methods of resist- 
ing these temptations which desire assembles. Firstly, abstain 
from all vanities, secondly, strive steadfastly to attain what little 
virtue you are capable of grasping, as well as aspiring con- 
tinually for the good qualities which transcend your reach. 
Observe this lesson, learn it well, and arm yourself with it; and 
may Our Lord God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ be your 
help in all your doings, for there exists no strength nor power 
except that which proceeds from Jesus Christ, to whom belongs 
glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and 
always and for ever and ever, Amen.’ 

30. Iodasaph said: ‘I have listened to your discourse and glori- 
fication of God. Add now an even clearer description, so that I 
may see God’s image as if with my own eyes.' 

Balahvar said : ‘Inexpressible is the likeness of the Godhead, 



and the mind cannot fathom its nature. Neither are any tongues 
capable of worthily praising Him. Knowledge of Him is 
inaccessible to created beings, apart from what He has revealed 
by the mouth of the prophets. No one has the right to speak of 
Him to mankind, except for Him who was born of the Godhead 
prior to eternity, namely Our Lord Jesus Christ, who proceeded 
from God the Father. It was Our Lord who proclaimed Him to 
us, for His likeness is invisible to the eyes; and the prophets 
testified concerning Him and convinced mankind of His 
authority by means of signs and miracles, which He gave them 
to perform by power such as was vouchsafed to no one else. For 
He exercises His power universally in the heavens and on earth, 
in the seas and in all the depths.’ 

Iodasaph said; ‘What is the evidence for the knowledge of 

Balahvar replied : ‘The sky and the earth and all that dwell 
therein, things spiritual and creatures endowed with flesh. If 
you see some vessel which has been fashioned, even though you 
may not have seen its maker, you believe all the same that it had 
someone to make it. Similarly, in the case of a building, even if 
you cannot see the man who built it, your reason still tells you 
that it has a builder. As for me, when I looked attentively at my 
own anatomy, I was amazed; and although I could not see my 
Maker, I know that He gave me birth according to His will and 
shaped me in accordance with His design, quite apart from my 
own choice. If I had been my own creator, I should have made 
myself superior in phvsical beauty and bodily perfection to all 
other created beings; but He who created me according to His 
own design made me greater than many of His creatures and less 
than others. Later I also realized that He will bear me away out 
of this life without asking my consent. And I see that events 
will befall me from unknown quarters, without my having 
knowledge of the length of my life-span, nor what evil may 
overtake me in its course. And I perceive that all men are in like 
case to myself : for no man can either add to or take away from 
his stature , 1 or replace a worn-out body, nor can he fasten on 
afresh any limb which may have fallen away. Kings have not 
been able to perform this by their sovereignty nor wise men by 

1 Matthew, vi. 27; Luke, xii. 1 $. 


their wisdom; neither have clever men succeeded in this by their 
cleverness, nor strong men by the strength. 

‘Then again, we observe the drawing in of evening following 
the day, the dawning of day following the night, and the revolu- 
tion of the spheres. Thereby we know that all those created 
beings have a Creator, being of a different nature from them. If 
He id resemble them, He would be just like one of them, and 
would be governed by the same forces which govern each one of 
them. Everything which we see has been created, and the 
creation of those things bears witness to this fact; some of them 
have come into existence by conjunction, and others by repro- 
duction; some are formed by separation and others by definition, 
abbreviation and extension within the time scale, as well as by 
stirring into motion or else by inducing stability. He created 
them from nothing and fashioned them without any previous 
model. He said ; “Be ! ” And they were. Whenever He so desires, 
all will pass away. And again, He can restore them to being, just 
as they were previously. His command is sharper than a double- 
edged sword 1 and swifter than a lightning flash. He summons 
them and they draw near; He scatters them and they are dis- 
persed; and again He brings them into order and they resume 
their shape. And blessed and glorious and exalted exceedingly is 
the name of the Holy Trinity for evermore.’ 

3 1 . Iodasaph exclaimed : ‘All that you have told me about the 
origin of created things, namely that apart from God nothing 
came into being, this I have taken in; for you have convinced me 
by means of true testimony and lucid instances. Yet how do you 
know whether there is any resurrection after death, and any 
repayment for good works and for evil?’ 

Balahvar answered; ‘There are two things which make this 
manifest. Firstly, there is a great difference between the way in 
which the devout and the unbelievers live in this world, since 
we see many unbelievers quitting this earth in luxury, honour 
and tranquillity, whereas many of the devout pass into the 
world beyond in poor, despised and straitened circumstances. 
Thereby one knows that the just fudge has forborne from glori- 
fying His devout ones in this world in terms of luxury and 

1 Hebrews, iv. 1 1. 



honours, simply in order to prepare for them eternal honour in 
the world hereafter, although the disobedience of mortals can in 
no way harm God, nor their obedience further His designs. 

‘In the second place, this is made evident through the preach- 
ing of the apostles, for they uttered glad tidings to mankind of 
eternal reward for the faithful, and gave warning of eternal tor- 
ments for the disobedient. I accept their testimony on these 
secret mysteries, because they displayed signs and miracles with 
powers which no human being could command without the 
agency of the one and only Godhead. 

32. Iodasaph said: ‘Tell me now, since the apostles were men 
of ordinary human stuff and of like character to other men, how 
can you distinguish them from their fellow beings, and how do 
you know whether they are telling the truth?’ 

Balahvar told him : ‘I know the truth of their words from the 
fact that they have renounced this world and those that dwell 
therein, and have resisted its demands and exhorted men to con- 
form to righteous ideals on all occasions — in wrath and in 
tranquillity, in poverty and in wealth, in lowliness and in 
exaltation, and in seeking asylum from the path of tyrants. They 
urge us to distinguish between the honourable and the dis- 
honourable, to endure spiteful treatment patiently, to abandon 
self-will and submit to privation, to abide by the commandments 
and submit to the tribunal of justice whenever a man is called 
upon to face it. These burdens of theirs are exceedingly heavy to 
bear, and their yoke is tight and irksome. Now if they had been 
false prophets of God and liars, they would not have led men 
along such narrow and difficult paths. They would sooner have 
offered them vistas to delight human nature, and shown them a 
broad path and a spacious gate such as would please the eyes and 
captivate the heart. They would have pandered to their enjoy- 
ments and lusts and encouraged them in gracious living and won 
over men’s hearts by this kind of approach. They would not have 
alarmed people by their prayers, fasting and endurance in 
travail, and by treating both rich and poor on a footing of 
equality. That is how we know that they speak true, and their 
deeds also testify to this, for no ordinary mortals could manifest 
such marvels and signs as they ! ’ 

Iodasaph asked : ‘If any man were to arise and falsely declare 



himself an apostle of God and set himself up as a preacher, how 
can one detect whether he is telling the truth or a pack of lies ? ' 

Balahvar replied: ‘His works will declare his hidden secrets 
and his preaching will be discredited by his behaviour. For such 
impostors preach long-suffering and are themselves incapable of 
endurance; they teach virtue and practise vice; nor are they 
capable of performing any miracle which surpasses the powers 
of man. If however any true prophet departs this life, among his 
papers will be found a message specifying the successor who is 
coming to continue his ministry.’ 

Iodasaph enquired: ‘Now supposing there happened to be a 
certain man versed in ancient writings and records of events 
gone by, and that he had learnt from these that such a man was 
expected to come; supposing furthermore that he discovered the 
names of the dead prophet and the one who was to come, and 
himself posed as the appointed successor — how is such an 
impostor to be found out, and his trickery exposed?’ 

The holy Balahvar said : ‘The word of God is invincible, His 
light unquenchable, His truth inextinguishable. For God sends 
no prophet among a given generation other than one who is 
prominent among the people. Even prior to his mission, that 
man must be outstanding for his holiness, truth, calmness, 
physical purity and love of peace. He will not be wrathful, 
avaricious nor haughtv; nor will he embark irresponsibly on any 
unrighteous course. When God sends such a man out to preach, 
He imparts to him strength in deed and in word. If previously he 
was halting in speech, God grants him the gift of eloquence, 
enabling him to utter glad tidings, to reprove, and to gain know- 
ledge of things not revealed to ordinary men. Everything he does 
he performs with grace and even his hidden doings testify about 
him. No man can prevail against truth through falsehood, even 
if his false character has not been previously detected by the 
people, or some deed of his served to unmask his imposture. 
Again, justice cannot be established by lies, nor can falsehood 
produce and bring about any good thing.’ 

33. Balahvar’s visits to the king's son became frequent. He kept 
on instructing and admonishing Iodasaph, until his retainers 
became astonished and amazed at Balahvar’s untimely visita- 



Now the king had appointed as his son's servant and governor 
a certain loyal man in whom he had every confidence, whose 
name was Zadan. When Zadan got to know about Balahvar, he 
had a private word with the prince and said to him: 'You are 
aware of the position I hold in the king’s service and my respon- 
sibility for you. Your father would not have appointed me to 
serve you, had he not trusted me completely. I am extremely 
surprised at the conduct of this individual who comes to see you 
all the time. I am afraid that he may belong to the sect which 
your father detests and has banned from the kingdom. Now if 
he purposes to do some good thing for you and you have no 
objection to your father’s knowing, I had better inform the king, 
because we are very worried and disturbed about this matter. 
But if he is discussing some mystery with you, which you are 
unwilling for the king to learn of, then do one of three things 
for my sake : either having nothing further to do with him, and 
I will conceal what has occurred up to now; alternatively, you 
could refrain from anger and absolve us from blame, while let- 
ting us approach the king ourselves, meanwhile preparing a 
suitable explanation regarding this man and getting ready to 
present your own excuses; or finally, you can vent your wrath 
upon us by public disgrace and dismissal, and arrange for your 
father to give you other servants instead of us.’ 

The king’s son answered Zadan and said: 'The first step I 
propose to take regarding you, Zadan, is to conceal you in this 
room, so that you can listen to our conversation. Afterwards I 
will tell you what I have decided to do.' 

So the prince seated Zadan behind the curtain when Balahvar 
was due to visit him. They began to converse with one another, 
and Iodasaph made enquiry concerning the passing world. Then 
Balahvar according to his wont began to discourse on the vanity 
of the world and the glory of eternity and said : 'Those who seek 
after pleasure ought to choose eternal bliss in preference to this 
life which so swiftly passes by ! Why is it that people addicted 
to this world’s delights fail to realise that unless a thing is 
durable, it is not worth having at all? How can they fail to 
appreciate the superiority of those eternal blessings, compared 
with all this trifling, contemptible and swiftly perishing enjoy- 
ment? No one but a fool will immerse himself in love for this 
world, and no one but a deluded wretch will stray from the path 



towards life eternal. How can the business of amassing wealth 
make people other than wretched? For they are engaged in a 
contest for transitory riches which they know beyond any doubt 
must soon slip out of their hands. They know that every momen- 
tary pleasure changes after an instant from novelty to tedium ! 
And yet they fail to deposit their treasures in the world eternal, 
where they are stored free from corruption ! What worldly affair 
is worthy of praise, and what treasures of this earth can last 
without rotting away? What mortals are more pitiful than those 
who seek after wealth and are drunk with greed for riches, 
seeing that the more valuables they accumulate here below, the 
more misery will be added to their lot in heaven. The more 
honour they win here below, the more they will be put to shame 
and kept apart from God there above.’ — And much similar 
converse and discussion they held together. 

34. When Balahvar had left, Iodasaph wanted to test Zadan, to 
see whether he had been edified by Balahvar’s words. So he said 
to him : ‘Do you not hear what this liar and charlatan is telling 
me ? He is trying to pervert me and spoil my enjoyment of this 
life, and inciting me to oppose the king ! ’ 

Zadan said to him : ‘You have no need to resort to a ruse with 
me, O king’s son, nor have you anything to be ashamed of, for 
this discourse is singular and luminous. In earlier times we too 
have listened to this doctrine and recognized its sweetness and 
the excellence of those who put it into practice. But since the 
time when the king persecuted and banned the Christian faith, 
we have no more been allowed to hear such tidings, for fear that 
our hearts might receive and cherish this doctrine. We realize 
that it was ignorance which made us turn our back on it, and 
give our preference to this life which passes away in an instant. 
As for you, O king’s son, if you find the Christian faith pleasing 
and have chosen it for yourself, and are prepared to submit to its 
rigour, combined with the king’s wrath, the people’s hostility, 
and the austerities of its adepts — then be joyful through Christ 
in celestial glory and life eternal ! I, however, am inhibited by 
my love for the passing world and awe before your father, 
although I do not deny the merits of this cause, nor would I 
oppose anyone who embraced it. But now please counsel me how 



to avoid incurring your father's anger, seeing that I have so far 
concealed this affair from him!’ 

Iodasaph said to Zadan: ‘Was it not for your own benefit 
that I let you listen to this conversation of ours, in order that 
you might receive the message of salvation, which is life for the 
spirit? I could think of no greater reward for your loyalty and 
affection than to make you realize to what end you have been 
created, and help you to appreciate your own best interests. 
However, your response has not measured up to the hope I 
placed in you ! As for the concealment of this matter, be this as 
you wish. It is not for my own sake that I fear the king’s wrath, 
but for that of the king himself, for he takes this business greatly 
to heart. By telling him, you would only cause him worry and 
incite him to persecute the true believers. By keeping this matter 
secret, you will be performing an act of loyalty towards His 
Majesty, for you will spare his mind from grief and not be a 
harbinger of gloom, robbing him of hope in his son. For my part, 
I absolve you of all blame.’ 

35. Now Balahvar wanted to depart to his own abode, and 
came to take leave of the king’s son. But Iodasaph was very sad 
and could not bear to be separated from him, and said to him : 
‘I cannot endure to exist without you, nor can I suffer you to 
depart. Rather let me go away with you, and we will dwell 
together in company with your comrades ! ’ 


The Tame Gazelle 

Balahvar said to him : ‘Listen now, O king’s son, to a parable 
which I propose to tell you. For I have heard that once there 
lived a certain man of rich and noble family, who had a little 
son. And for that child he reared the fawn of a gazelle. Now the 
boy became greatly attached to the fawn, to such an extent that 
he could not bear to be parted from it for a moment. But when 
the fawn grew up, her native instincts asserted themselves and 
she longed to run wild in the country. So one day she went out 
and caught sight of a herd of gazelles and joined their company. 
At first they shunned her because of her tameness, then they 



sniffed and smelt at one another. After this, she would sally 
forth from time to time, whenever her keepers relaxed their 
vigilance. The wild gazelles grew accustomed to her, and she 
would often tarry with them out in the open. When her 
guardians realized that she was reverting to the wild state, they 
felt that she might be overpowered by her original savage nature 
and return to them no more. The gazelles themselves then 
migrated to a more remote place, and the fawn too used to follow 
after them and return home even more tardily than at first. 
Then her keepers sent a man after her to spy out her doings and 
the place to which she was resorting. The man returned and 
reported that she was consorting with wild gazelles. Then the 
guardians mounted their steeds and set off on her trail. When 
they caught sight of her afar off, they gave chase to the wild 
gazelles, hunted them down and exterminated them; and they 
caught the tame fawn, carried her off and locked her up at 
home, and she was never allowed to venture forth again. 

‘I am afraid, O prince, that if you sally forth to join us, a like 
fate may befall me and my companions. We could not enjoy 
your company, nor could our hopes for the revival of the faith 
be fulfilled. Your own intimates might come to harm, and you 
would be prevented from achieving your own desire, which you 
might otherwise attain through striving in secret until you find 
the moment of real opportunity, if this be God's will. Your 
perseverance in this course of action will be more pleasing to 
God than for the king’s wrath to be excited against those 
remaining brethren who would be doomed to annihilation in 
the event of your departure. We are not fleeing to escape ill- 
treatment and death at the king’s hands, but because we do not 
want to give him a pretext to persecute my companions if we 
abduct you, nor do we wish to become a party to his godless 

36. Iodasaph asked; ‘What kind of food do you subsist on in 
the wilderness?’ 

Balahvar replied: ‘Herbs of the earth, watered by the dew, 
for the sake of which no one competes or quarrels with us. But 
if we are short of anything, some of our pious brethren dwelling 
in that region will supply us. And in our penurious state it 
seems to us only right and proper to accept their offerings.’ 




lodasaph said : ‘Then accept and take some articles of value, 
to save your companions from want ! ’ 

Balahvar retorted: ‘How can you give any valuables to my 
companions, seeing that you are poorer even than they? For no 
poor man can give alms to a rich one, but only a rich one to a 
poor one, and the poorest of my companions is richer than you 
are ! But I hope that if the Lord wills it, you too will become 
passing rich and that your fruits and your treasures may be 
multiplied. But then you will become miserly, and not so ready 
to distribute them to all and sundry ! ’ 

lodasaph enquired : ‘How comes it that the poorest of your 
companions is richer than I, after what you have been saying 
about their extreme poverty? How is it that I shall become 
miserly when my treasures are multiplied, whereas today I am 
lavish in giving?’ 

Balahvar replied : ‘I do not speak of their poverty, but of the 
wealth which these brethren of yours confidently expect in the 
hereafter. They are perfectly content with their lot, and derive 
more delight and joy from renouncing pleasure than from all 
the wealth in the world. You also must aspire to such a way of 
life, for the rich man is he who has no truck with riches. But 
those who seek after treasure and wealth may be rich in 
material terms, but are poor in spirit. My comrades enjoy pre- 
eminence in happiness, for they are not men of this world, and 
have stored up treasures of good deeds in heaven, to which you 
yourself can as yet lay no claim. In this world they have com- 
fort, joy and hope at the prospect of the good reward which will 
be meted out to those who depart this life after fulfilling the true 
doctrine of the orthodox faith. You also shall attain thither, if it 
be Christ’s will, your fruit shall be multiplied, you shall set eyes 
on your brethren for whom you yearn, and you shall rejoice in 
one another. No longer will you squander those treasures which 
you will acquire there above. Then you will become really 
worthy to appreciate riches and store up precious things. 

‘As for the valuables which you have in mind to give to my 
companions — these would serve only to unsettle their minds. 
The aim of my mission is not to administer to them again the 
poison of this world, which they have fought and overcome by 
their exertions and by faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to 
revive their foe whom they have slain and the lusts which they 



have trampled underfoot. It is not good to set among them an 
enemy who would confuse them and remind them of the vain 
pleasures of this world, lest they falter and be plunged into 
poverty and ruin. As for this gold and silver, these carbuncles 
and pearls — what are they but different species of those same 
stones which exist in our own wilderness?’ 

Iodasaph asked: 'Whence do you procure your clothing?’ 
The holy Balahvar answered : ‘This is our most difficult task 
of all, though we content ourselves for raiment with old bits of 
cloth gathered from refuse-heaps and sometimes garments woven 
from rushes and leaves, and we make do with one piece of cloth- 
ing for a long period of time. When we change our clothes, we 
consider that our sufferings in this world are drawing to a close. 
If death comes upon our brother before his garment is worn out, 
the departed is laid to rest, now that the long-awaited day has 
arrived on which he placed his hope. But if the clothes wear out 
and the man remains alive, then they replace the garment in the 
way that I have just described to you. If we can find nothing 
more on the refuse-heaps and run out of raw materials for 
weaving together, in such dire necessity we accept gifts from 
the villages or from whatever source God sends them, whether 
it be from righteous men or from false.' 

Iodasaph said : ‘Accept from me some raiment for your com- 
panions, and share it out between them ! ’ 

Balahvar replied : ‘This would constitute storing up goods for 
the future and is not lawful, as it is written in the Holy Gospel: 
“Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be 
anxious about itself.” 1 None of us changes his garment until it 
is completely worn out and does not cover up his flesh any 
longer. What is the point of making provision for some future 
day, when a man knows not whether he will reach that day or 

The Costume of Enemies 

37. Iodasaph asked: ‘Then how did you come to dress yourself 
in your present fine raiment?’ 

1 Matthew, vi. 34. 



Balahvar said: ‘I have put on this apparel in order to gain 
access to your presence, so that no one in your father’s realm 
would be shocked by my appearance. Now this instance is like 
that of a person who has a kinsman in captivity, and wishes to 
deliver him from his foes. He cannot enter the enemies’ country 
except by disguising his appearance and his costume, and so he 
adopts this stratagem in order to rescue his kinsman from the 
foes. By this method, he is enabled the more successfully to 
attain his objective. 

‘When I heard about you and learnt that you longed for 
righteousness and sought after the true Saviour, Jesus Christ, 
and yearned to hear the message of the Holy Gospel, then I 
realized that this mission would be profitable to my soul, and 
that I had found a fruitful ground for sowing. This is the path 
which leads to all men like you, whether they be high or low. 
But now I have delivered you from your foes by the power and 
intercession of Our Lord Jesus Christ and have rescued you from 
their clutches, for I have imparted to you the knowledge of God 
and the precepts of the apostles and Holy Fathers. And I have 
taught you the entire Christian creed and set you on your 
guard against this world and its snares, and the way in which it 
deludes men by its delights and lusts; and I have warned you 
against its wiles and exposed its shame to you, for it is a harlot 
and remains not constant in love for any man. So now I am 
departing to the scene of my tranquil existence, and there I 
shall strip off the guise of my enemies and don once more the 
likeness and garb of my brethren and companions. But if you 
had actually seen me dressed and attired like these companions 
of mine, I do not imagine that you would have been so eager to 
come away and join them ! ’ 

Then Iodasaph prayed him to show himself in the likeness of 
his companions. So Balahvar doffed his robes, exposing his 
entire skin drawn over his bones like the hide of a man dead 
through excessive fasting, stretched tightly over thin canes. He 
wore no clothes apart from a tattered hair apron hanging by a 
string from his navel and reaching down to his knees, as is the 
habit of ascetics. When Iodasaph saw this apron sewn from old 
rags hanging upon him, his heart welled up at the sight of this 
great symbol of godliness and armour of the sacred monastic 



habit which the holy Balahvar wore upon his person. Iodasaph 
began to weep and sob, and his bowels of compassion were 
moved for his sake. Like one who mourns at the prospect of his 
own death, so did Iodasaph weep bitterly at the prospect of 
Balahvar's departure. 

38. And he said to him : ‘If you will neither take me with you 
nor accept clothing or valuables for your companions, at least 
accept a garment for yourself!’ 

Balahvar replied : ‘I have refused the gifts which you pressed 
on me for my companions, O prince, as they do not seek after 
such things. How then shall I take anything for my own use? 
How can I deny them possessions, but not deny myself? If it 
were right, I should collect things for them sooner than for 

Iodasaph said : ‘At least accept a new hair garment, and leave 
me yours, for I want to keep something to remind me of you ! ’ 

Balahvar answered : ‘In that case I will take a fresh garment 
in exchange for my old one. But the difference in value between 
the old and the new must not be treated as a reward for my 
pious endeavours, so let the one that you give me be part-worn, 
like my own.’ 

Then Iodasaph took a worn vestment and put it on Balahvar, 
and received his own in exchange. And he said to him: ‘You 
must know that your departure causes me great distress and 

39. Balahvar said: ‘O prince, I am the servant of Christ our 
King and not a free agent; His blessings towards me are great, 
and great is the faith I place in Him. Likewise, my fear of Him 
cannot be dispelled. I received from Him orders concerning this 
business, which I must hasten to carry out; if after fulfilling 
these instructions I postpone the hour of my departure, however 
reluctant I am to go, I shall be unfaithful to Him. My mission 
to you is accomplished, now that you have adopted the true 
creed which I have taught you. All that I have imparted to you 
is directed towards loyalty to Christ; but now I must withdraw 
from this assignment of mine to you, and hand over to you 
responsibility for your own future course of life, for I have 
expounded to you all His laws. But now I must hasten to other 



men, and seek out a fertile field in which to sow the good seed. 

‘Being on the point of departure, I leave you these rules: 
Observe the creed which Christ our God has conveyed to you, 
and prepare yourself for action, that you may fathom His pur- 
poses and fulfil His laws. Do not count obedience to Him as any 
great merit. Do not flatter yourself, nor trust others except 
those who merit confidence. Distrust and analyze your own 
impulses, and cast out your lustful desires. Spend the days of 
your life in such a way that you may be found each day in 
perfect obedience to God and Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and be 
prepared to encounter death at any moment. Avoid any deed 
which may end by involving you in evil and set the seal of 
sorrow upon your doings. Profit by your youth and bodily 
vigour to devote yourself to toil and effort, so that lack of time 
or the onset of sickness may not rob you of the reward of your 
works by rendering you unfit for any kind of labour. Fulfil 
God’s commands diligently and find humility therein; lay down 
your head in the place of the despised and sacrifice yourself for 
the weak. Shun addiction to evil lusts. Do not miss any chance 
of doing some small good deed by waiting for some greater 
enterprise to present itself. First thing in the morning, scrutinize 
critically your own moral qualities and repent of the faults 
which you have committed the day before. Do not desist from 
a good deed because the beneficiary is unworthy, but do not 
emulate wrongful conduct simply because the majority practise 
it. A wise man should imitate others solely in deeds of goodness. 
Shun self-satisfaction, and do not congratulate yourself on your 
own successes. There are, you know, two different ways of being 
pleased with your good works, one of which brings all manner 
of virtue in its train, while the other casts a man into all manner 
of evil. The kind which produces good occurs when a man 
rejoices at the increasing fruits of his good deeds and his great 
weariness is relieved by the zeal which he has already shown, 
which now spurs him on to further feats. What induces all 
manner of evil is the kind of self-satisfaction which ensues when 
a man’s own works please him greatly, so that his mind is puffed 
up and gives way to complacency, so that he says: “What I 
have already done is quite sufficient”, and he abandons all 
future effort. So have more concern for yourself, that you may 
devise how to escape the fearsome snares of the world, to win 



liberation and enter on that narrow road which leads to eternal 

40. ‘Such are my teachings which I leave you, in loyal fulfil- 
ment of my duty towards you and towards God for your sake. 
I beseech God that He may bestow upon you the fullness of His 
grace and the excellent virtue of His obedient servants. May He 
set upon your life and deeds the imprint of all goodness, and 
grant you self-control so that you do not fall into evil. May He 
deliver your will from all temptation and protect you beneath 
the shield of His cross, an impregnable and secure refuge, where- 
by you will be guarded from phantoms both human and 
diabolical. May He implant in your heart loathing for this 
world, and grant you a life of piety in the world below and 
heavenly bliss in the life to come. May your days be filled with 
peace and tranquillity and may you be free from all cares for 
your own sake, until you reach in company with us the supreme 
abode of the just and the loftiest station of the elect believers. 

Iodasaph said in reply: ‘You call me a king’s son. Yet I am 
no king’s son, but a slave and son of a slave of unrighteousness. 
But God has magnified his benevolence towards me by your 
agency and has also given me the occasion to enhance your own 
merits, since you have brought me knowledge of the Lord Jesus 
Christ, who was conceived without immission of seed and born 
of the Virgin Mary. You have taught me His holy creed, set me 
upon the path of truth, stripped off the veil of blindness, and 
rescued me from the snares of death. Great is the reward I owe 
you for your kindnesses towards me, and I cannot sufficiently 
render thanks to you as I ought; but God will recompense you 
on my behalf, for to Him belongs the fullness of reward. God 
will bestow His bounty upon you until you are fully satisfied ! 
If you will abide with me, you shall be the delight of my soul. 
If you depart, may God not cut off your paths from the sphere 
of His purposes. But let Christ our God make up any deficiency 
in my gratitude towards you in that place where each man shall 
utter aloud his paean of praise, and may God the Father of Our 
Lord Jesus Christ accompany you in all your ways.’ 

Then they arose to bid one another farewell and took leave of 
one another and embraced each other with tears. And Balahvar 


went his way, filled with spiritual joy because his desire was 
fulfilled. And he gave thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom 
belong glory and honour, thanks and obeisance together with 
the Father and the most holy life-giving Spirit, now and always 
and for ever and ever, Amen . 1 

1 Copyist’s note in the manuscript : 'O Christ, have mercy on the soul of 
David and his parents and brethren, Amen. O Christ, glorify the soul of 
Prochorus, Theodore and Michael and my spiritual brethren, Michael and 
Saba, Amen.’ 






41. From thenceforward Iodasaph began to fast and pray and 
serve God in secret. At the hour when men fall asleep, he would 
begin to hold vigil until the dawn, and with tears and groans he 
would perform his seven acts of prayer the whole night 

But Zadan his servant, whom the king had appointed to look 
after his son, went away to his own quarters greatly troubled 
about Iodasaph's affairs, and pretended to be ill. They informed 
the king about his health, and he was sorry to hear of Zadan's 
sickness. He appointed one of his trusty retainers to act in 
Zadan’s place, and sent his own physician to Zadan to cure his 
ailment. But when the physician had examined him, he 
returned to the king and reported: ‘I have been unable to 
diagnose any ailment in that man. I have examined him all over, 
and found no symptoms of illness. My opinion is that he must 
have suffered some grief serious enough to produce such 
exhaustion in his system, for his forces are at a low ebb.’ 

When the king heard these words, his face fell and he sensed 
the reason for Zadan’s ailment. He imagined that his son was 
tired of Zadan’s company and had treated him with disfavour 
and hostility, with the result that Zadan had resigned from his 
service. So the king sent word to Zadan, saying : ‘I have learnt 
of your illness and am sorry to hear about it, so I propose to 
come and see you today. So be prepared for my visit !' 

When Zadan received this message, he arose at once and put 

1 Here the scribe has added another note : ‘O Christ, have mercy on David, 



on his clothes, and went forth to the king. While on his way, 
he encountered the king, who said to him : ‘Why did you not 
remain at home until my arrival, so that I might perform an 
act of courtesy towards you?’ 

Zadan answered and said to the king : ‘My distemper, 0 king, 
arises not from any ailment, but from pain in my heart. That is 
why I was unwilling to put Your Majesty to any trouble, since 
this is not a case of genuine sickness and I have no wish to abuse 
Your Majesty’s kindness.’ 

The king said : ‘Now what is this pain of yours ? ’ 

Zadan said: ‘A great woe has seized upon me, and a fit of 
trembling due to a terrible and grievous event.’ 

The king said : ‘Come into the palace, that I may learn the 
details of this affair from you at leisure.' 

When the king had entered into the palace with Zadan, be 
told Abenes what he had seen and heard of Balahvar the ascetic 
— how he had been continually instructing the king’s son and 
denouncing the ways of the world, how the prince had cherished 
his words until he had learnt them by heart and attained to 
perfection of knowledge, and how Balahvar had catechized him 
and instructed him in wisdom, until he was fully initiated. 

42. At this the king was filled with great anger and dismay. 
Afterwards he resolved to bide his time patiently, because he 
planned to resort to a ruse in order to make his son submit once 
more to his own will. Then he summoned a certain man who 
was his counsellor, and whose name was Rakhis. (Whenever 
the king was worried by some troublesome and grievous prob- 
lem, this man served as the king’s comforter.) So now King 
Abenes told Rakhis his son’s story, and asked him insistently 
for advice regarding him. 

Rakhis said to the king: ‘Our first step is to make every 
possible effort to capture Balahvar. If Your Majesty succeeds in 
apprehending him, we will arrange a debate with Balahvar and 
show the prince how he is deluded. We will prove that it is 
wrong to reject those good things which our gods have given us 
to enjoy and show how this trickster cuts men off from pleasures 
without which this world is valueless. When we have proved 
all this and won our case, the prince will be cured of his delusion 
and this will constitute a victory for us. 



‘If we fail to track down Balahvar, Your Majesty, I will pro- 
duce in his stead a certain man who is quite unknown in this 
land. He is of our creed and indistinguishable from Balahvar in 
physiognomy, complexion, stature, voice and speech. He dwells 
outside in the wilderness and his name is Nakhor; and he was 
my own teacher.' 

The king said: ‘How is this to be managed?’ 

Rakhis said: ‘I shall sally forth secretly at night, acquaint 
him with this entire business of ours, and teach him our plan of 
action. Then he will come out on to the road disguised in 
monastic dress and appearance. When we engage him in con- 
versation, he shall answer in the language of the monks, and 
declare his opposition to our creed. When we ask him his name, 
he shall say : “I am Balahvar ! ” When we arrange a disputation 
in the prince’s presence, he will imagine that this is really 
Balahvar, because there will be nothing to distinguish him from 
that impostor. Then Nakhor will begin by championing that 
creed of theirs, and reviling ours. But when we reach the con- 
clusion, he will start faltering in his words, admit his error and 
concede victory for our side over himself. And so Nakhor shall 
himself prevail on the prince to abandon his course of behaviour 
and convince him that it is good to build up his city and 
countries and enjoy the delights thereof, and that quitting the 
world, voluntarily embracing death, and dooming a man to 
childless extinction, is a complete fallacy. After all, if all men 
chose to abandon the world entirely and embrace the monastic 
life, then in a short space of time the world would be entirely 
laid waste! — By this scheme, I have every hope of dispelling 
Your Majesty’s worries.’ 

When the king heard these words of Rakhis, he was greatly 
cheered, for he hoped to fulfil his desire through Rakhis’ counsel. 
Thereupon the king set out in quest of Balahvar. 

43. Sending out his retainers over several different routes, 
Abenes set out in person on the particular road which Balahvar 
was most likely to follow. He travelled for many days and found 
no one, and became very weary and exasperated, and wanted to 
turn back. Then Rakhis resorted to divination to find out 
whether they were going to succeed in their search, and told the 
king: ‘Behold, the omens tell us that we shall not turn back 



without achieving success ! Already I see our quarry approach- 
ing us, and success is at hand. If Your Majesty will consent, pray 
remain here today and send me on in front.’ And the king fol- 
lowed his advice and sent him out with a small force of troops. 

It was evening. Rakhis caught sight of a group of hermits 
walking along. When they drew near, they turned out to be a 
party of the servants of God dwelling in the desert, who had 
completely abandoned this transitory life for the sake of Christ. 
The leader of the group carried some dead men’s bones hanging 
from him by an old cord. But Balahvar, whom Rakhis knew by 
sight, was not among them. 

Rakhis said to them : ‘Where is that man who has perverted 
and ruined the king's son?’ 

The bearer of the relics said to him : ‘He is not among us, nor 
could we tolerate his presence ! But he is a much closer neigh- 
bour to yourselves ! ’ — And the holy man added : ‘In fact, I 
know that person in question, whose name is Rakhis, and a very 
devil is he. I imagine that he is of your company !’ 

Rakhis replied : ‘I was asking about Balahvar.’ 

The holy man retorted: ‘Why then did you allege that he 
has perverted and ruined anyone? Rather should you have said 
in enquiring about him : “Where is he who has instructed and 
afforded salvation to such and such a person?” He is our brother 
and companion, though it is a long time since we last saw him.’ 
Rakhis said : ‘Tell us at least where he is to be found !’ 

The saint answered him : ‘If he had desired to meet you, he 
would himself have come out to look for you. But we shall not 
impose any encounter on him against his own wishes.' 

Rakhis said : ‘The king will put you to death.’ 

The lover of Christ answered him : ‘What pleasure can you 
see in our way of life which might make us cling to existence in 
this world, and shrink from death for Christ’s sake, with which 
you seek to terrify us?’ 

Then Rakhis drove the holy men along and brought them to 
the king. When the king set eyes on them, he was much per- 
turbed, for he imagined that he had extirpated them from his 
realm altogether. So the king said to those saints: ‘If you are 
carrying these relics about through love and compassion for 
those to whom they belong, this very day your own heads and 
bones can be joined to their number.’ 



That holy man upon whom the relics hung rejoined : ‘We 
pity and lament our own selves more than those departed ones 
to whom these relics belong; for they lie at rest, while we 
languish in bondage in this transitory world. It is because we 
yearn to join them that we carry their relics about, for they 
remind us day by day of death.’ 

The king answered : ‘Why should those dried up relics remind 
wise men of death more effectively than do those bones which 
you carry about within your own bodies ? ’ 

The holy man replied : ‘They give more potent warning 
because they are the relics of dead men, whereas our own bones 
are living things. If the bones of dead and living men be alike, 
as you allege, then why do you yourself take no heed of death, 
seeing that you have bones inside your own body? What crime 
have you to lay at our door ? Again, tell me why you are harry- 
ing the saints who have cast aside this transitory world and no 
longer compete with you for a share in it, and do not rather 
persecute those who vie with you in partaking of the world’s 

The king answered : ‘It is because those people are perverted, 
as well as perverting many others as well, preventing them from 
enjoying the good things and delights which were created for 
mankind’s sake. This wrath of mine serves as a lesson both for 
them and for the nation, so that the land may not become 
waste, and also to punish these ascetics for having no love for 
the good things of the earth .’ 1 

The holy man answered: 'If indeed you censure us because 

1 This dialogue between Abenes and the ascetic vividly illustrates the root 
causes of state hostility to religious sects of Dualist character, such as the 
Manichaeans. Sir Steven Runciman writes: ‘Manichaeanism failed because it 
was too anti-social. The authorities in that hard bellicose age, with civilization 
on the defensive against the barbarian invader, could not approve of a faith 
wherein all killing, even of animals, was forbidden, and whereof a consider- 
able number of believers wandered about, refusing to work, refusing to notice 
secular regulations, living on the charity of others and exercising a vast 
influence on the whole community.’ And again : ‘Thus all good Christians 
must necessarily fight against Dualism. And the State will usually support 
them. For the doctrine of Dualism leads inevitably to the doctrine that race- 
suicide is desirable: and that is a doctrine that no lay authority can regard 
with approval.’ (Steven Runciman, The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the 
Christian Dualist Heresy, Cambridge, 1947, pp. 17, 17;.) It seems increasingly 
apparent that the legend of Barlaam and Tosaphat did indeed originate as a 
Manichaean religious tract. 



we have turned our backs on the pleasure of the world, and you 
desire all men to live in ease, why then do you not give every- 
body a share in the luxuries which you enjoy? Why do you 
allow the people to enjoy only those pleasures for which you 
have no personal use?’ 

The king replied : ‘Because there is no equality between king 
and slave, duke and commoner. Every man should receive 
luxury and honour according to his proper status.’ 

The saint answered: ‘By this statement of yours, you flatly 
contradict yourself ! It is evident that you are seeking your own 
advantage, and not that of people generally. Now if you so 
desire, I will teach you why you are aflame with the fire of envy 
and burning to persecute those who have ceased to wear lay- 
men's clothing. You allege that your land will be depopulated 
through the multiplying of monks. But your real ambition is to 
bend mankind beneath the yoke of slavery, so that you may 
reign over them. You want them degraded for the sake of your 
exaltation, and them to be poor so that your own prosperity 
may grow according to your desire. You grant them freedom 
whenever you so please from motives of prestige, or restrict 
their movements according to your whim, and you set up your 
caprice as a barrier between yourself and your subjects. You 
exploit those who hunt after the pursuits of this world in the 
same way that a man will rear hawks or hounds, and tie them 
up and starve them so that they may fall with greater ferocity 
upon their prey. And when they succeed in catching the quarry, 
the hunter drags it from their mouth and ties them down with 
cord and chain. Then their success is turned into remorse and 
their joy to repining, and instead of their being fondled and 
praised, they are humiliated and driven outside. — In like 
fashion, you train men to love this world as much as it suits 
you, and then stop them at your whim from actually enjoying 
it. The only things you allow your subjects to enjoy are those 
which you can readily spare. It is clear that you seek your own 
advantage and not your neighbour’s, and this is why you want 
us to revert to the world.’ 

The king rejoined: ‘Tell me now, have you any superior 
among your companions?’ 

The holy man replied : ‘There is no one among them superior 
to me, nor any one inferior, for we are all one through Christ. 



This kind of differentiation exists only among you and your 
associates. Among us, no one is superior to his neighbour in 
prestige and wealth and nobility, nor is anyone inferior to his 
neighbour by reason of poverty and privation and low esteem.’ 
At this point the king ordered their hands and feet to be 
lopped off and their eyes dug out, and had them cast on to the 
road in a state between life and death. And he told Rakhis to 
produce Nakhor, the man who resembled Balahvar. 

44. So Rakhis went out alone by night and found Nakhor, and 
apprised him of the scheme which he and the king had devised. 
Then he set him upon a horse, but when they were approaching 
the royal palace, Rakhis left Nakhor and went off to see the 
king. He told him all about the measures and arrangements 
which had been agreed on, and how Nakhor was to make his 
appearance on the road as the king went by. 

When it grew light, the king sallied forth from the town for 
a ride, as was his custom. Nobody knew of the plot except for 
the king and Rakhis himself. During their ride, they saw a man 
walking towards them, a bowshot’s distance away. This was 
Nakhor, disguised according to Rakhis’s instructions. The king 
exclaimed: ‘Who is that man coming along this way?’ 

When they brought him to the king, he turned out to be a 
man resembling those who dwell in the wilderness and follow 
the monastic order. The king said to him : ‘What devil’s minion 1 
are you?’ 

The man replied : ‘I am no minion of the devil. But if you 
ask me what manner of person I am, then I will tell you.’ 

The king said : ‘I believe you are Balahvar ! ’ 

The false Balahvar retorted: ‘If indeed I am he, then I have 
rendered you no small service.’ 

The king asked : ‘What service do you claim to have rendered 

The false Balahvar said : ‘My claim is that you wanted your 
son taught how to attain perdition, whereas I have striven to 
teach your son the truth, until he has come to know Christ, the 
God and Saviour of all men, and his own Creator. And he has 

1 The Georgian pahraki, which I render as ‘minion’, is in reality an ancient 
Parthian word, pahrag, a sentry or watch-post. (I am indebted to Dr Mary 
Boyce for elucidating this term for me.) 



come to believe in what the prophets, apostles and holy fathers 
have told us, and what God has prepared for those that love 
Him as well as for His enemies. Your son himself was formerly 
an enemy of God, but I have reconciled him with God the 
Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And he has accepted my teach- 
ing and preferred it to all your ungodliness.’ 

Then the king expressed to the assembled company his delight 
at finding Balahvar. And he said to the false Balahvar: ‘I do 
not propose to kill you until I have held a debate with you. If 
you recant, then I will pardon your previous error; but if you 
persist in this same folly of yours, I will expose your delusion 
before men’s eyes, and cause you to die a death of hideous shame 
and agony.’ Then the king told his men to place the hermit on 
a horse, and they all set off. And the king entered his palace. 

It was blazoned abroad that the king had captured Balahvar, 
and the news of it reached the king’s son. The prince was 
exceedingly sad at heart and greatly afflicted. But a certain 
grandee, who was secretly a servant of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
knew the truth of the matter; his name was Barakhia, and he was 
a kinsman of the prince. This man saw through their machina- 
tions, for he had himself once had an argument with Nakhor on 
controversial matters of religious belief. So Barakhia visited the 
prince by night and said to him: This man who has been 
caught is not Balahvar, but his double, indistinguishable from 
him in appearance and complexion, in voice and speech. His 
name is Nakhor, and he is a pagan and belongs to the same 
creed as the king.’ And Barakhia went on to outline the king’s 
entire plan, and explained how a trap had been laid for the 
prince by this method. 

Then Iodasaph rejoiced with exceeding gladness and was 
relieved of the pain which he felt on the holy Balahvar’s 
account. His strength revived sufficiently for him to surmount 
the pitfalls they had laid for him, and he told Barakhia to reveal 
the matter to no one. 

45. Next morning the king arose and went out to see his son, 
and said to him: ‘My child, no one ever experienced such joy 
as I felt on your account. No one’s joy was ever turned into 
such bitterness and sorrow as you have brought upon me, for 
you have cut off the hope which I placed in you, sapped the 



strength of my sinews and dimmed the light of my eyes, and 
you have brought about that very thing I dreaded for your sake. 
Once I held life of no account, and looked on death with bold 
eyes, for I counted on your succeeding me after my death. But 
from now on I shall cling lovingly to life and shun death, for 
you have falsified my hope and betrayed my trust. You have 
plunged me into consternation by listening to false preachings, 
for you have fallen into that very snare which I feared, and 
from which I used every effort to guard you and keep you away. 
Instead of inheriting the kingdom, you have chosen in your 
ignorance, childishness and folly to bring upon yourself your 
own downfall. Am I not your father and parent ? But you have 
abandoned my faith, opposed my wishes through your wilful- 
ness, cast doubt on the religion of your ancestors, and delivered 
your downy curls into the hands of false men and seducers, who 
will lead you into sorrow and hurl you into perdition. Are you 
not ashamed at having turned to bitterness the joy which I felt 
on your account? You have not shrunk from breaking my 
heart! You have scorned to give thanks to the gods for the 
many boons which they have vouchsafed us, and have not culti- 
vated their favour. You have mortified your father by rejecting 
his precepts during his lifetime and refusing to succeed him 
after his death. Yet I suppose there is nothing surprising in this, 
seeing the times we live in and the prowess of the devil. Neither 
would it be out of the question even now for you to resume your 
obedience to your father’s will.’ 

Iodasaph answered and said: ‘You have brought to light this 
business of mine, O king, although I wanted to keep it from 
you, so that you could go on deriving pleasure from the plans 
which you made with such loving care. My desire is to conform 
outwardly in all respects to the pattern which you fondly 
cherished for me, so that when I die, your heart may not over- 
flow with bitterness because of me. But if you depart this life 
before me, heaven forbid that you should die robbed of the 
expectation that I shall succeed you, lest I should send your soul 
to the grave in sorrow because of me. The sole thing which has 
deterred me from inviting you to enter God’s service and making 
known to you the faith of Christ is your excessive addiction to 
sinful ways and your fixed principles of conduct, because of 
which I felt unable to convert you to the true faith which you 




find so very obnoxious. Therefore I decided to show my filial 
respect by concealing from you the fact that I have embraced 
the faith of Christ with unshakable belief. I wanted to avoid 
causing you grief and woe, at least until such time as I was 
forced to reveal the truth, which need then no longer be hidden 
but would rather help me to overcome all fear and shame before 
you and prepare me to withstand you. I considered that I was 
doing my utmost to fulfil your wishes in outward behaviour, 
conforming as I have done to your ordinances in regard to the 
steeds I rode, the clothes I wore and the food I ate, and this 
should be sufficient for you, without your making any demands 
on my inner self. Your Majesty must realize that though dis- 
covery of this secret of mine causes you grief at present, in 
future it will bring you abounding pleasure and joy for ever. 
Now leave me in peace to pursue this matter upon which I have 
embarked, rather than visiting me with wrath and shame. 
Accept this offer of mine to obey your will in outward forms, 
without advertising our differences in public. Do not expect me 
to adopt your religion, and abstain from enquiry into my 
private convictions, which can do you no harm during your 
lifetime or after your death.’ 

When the king heard his son’s words, he uttered curses and 
began to revile and threaten him, saying : ‘You proud and wilful 
young fellow! I shielded you from contact with common 
humanity and kept you apart from all suffering, so that you 
might enjoy honour and ease. I protected you from the snares 
and instigations of the devil. I have pampered your body with 
tenderness and your eyes and ears with delight, and have spared 
you all occasion for worry — all this for your personal benefit. 
But you are puffed up with audacity, and fi nd pleasure and ease 
irksome. In your ignorance, you chase after suffering and priva- 
tion ! The life you are seeking is such that if you actually taste 
the flavour of it and experience its sufferings and privations and 
the many vexations which it holds out for the soul, then you 
will come to your senses, and your impatience to escape from it 
will be greater than your present anxiety to flee from the 
pleasures and comforts of life. Those astrologers were right to 
prophesy at your birth that you would prove a knave and a 
wretch, a tiresome and fickle person, and one who refuses to 
appreciate the good things of the earth. But I gave you a first- 



class upbringing, that you might grow accustomed to the best 
things of life. I drove away from you all those deceivers and 
impostors, and utterly cleansed my land from them, and silenced 
men’s tongues from making any mention of their fraud. When 
I had revealed to my subjects the evil and false nature of those 
anchorites, they banished them with ignominy and rooted them 
out once for all. 

Then the devil armed himself against us. His only chance of 
prevailing over us lay in vanquishing you, because he found 
nobody among us more easily vulnerable than yourself, and 
that is why he put these evil ideas into your head. Can it be 
that through my guarding and cherishing of you, I have myself 
exposed you to that very danger which I so much feared for 
your sake? If only I had exposed you to temptation and forced 
you to eat the sour together with the sweet, you would not 
have remained ignorant of the bitterness of affliction and of 
the sweet savour of pleasures. But now you are oblivious of the 
sweetness of this life, because you have never yet experienced 
the bitterness of that existence after which you quest.’ 

Iodasaph answered and said: 'I cannot tell why Your 
Majesty is so indignant. Is it on account of the good thing 
which I have received, or because of my opposition to your 
will? If you are angry at my finding the good, then I shall 
have to flee away from you and free myself from your 
authority. If you are blaming me for opposing your will, and 
prefer me to be destroyed in conformity with your will rather 
than to live a life which does not conform to your outlook — 
then this attitude shows up your indifference towards me, and 
I myself, if this be truly so, must abandon all trust in you. The 
grief which Your Majesty feels for me over the good things 
which I have won is no greater than the grief which I feel on 
your account, because you are cut off from those eternal bless- 
ings. I have more right to sorrow and grief over your lot than 
you over mine 1 You have said that I am a mere child. Would 
that this childish nature of mine might serve as my excuse at 
the day of judgment ! As for the curses which you have poured 
out upon me, I am content to be reviled, so long as I am spared 
from all other forms of vileness. If you carry into action your 
threat towards me, I place my trust in God that I shall be 


united with that band of holy martyrs to whom your persecu- 
tions have brought life eternal. 

‘What profits it me for you to treat me like a child when I 
have already reached the age when I can no longer plead my 
childishness as an excuse? Why should I repine at the curses 
and foul language which you use towards me? The things for 
which you rail and storm at me are in fact my joy and pride. 
What is the use of threatening me with torments? After all, I 
have voluntarily chosen to endure no little torment on this 
earth by means of self-mortification, and that is why you are 
so enraged against me. As for what you say about the boons 
you have bestowed upon me, Your Majesty should realize that 
it is those transitory favours of yours which have aroused my 
desire for the eternal boons of the immortal King. If you force 
me to abandon those other eternal and unspeakable delights 
for the sake of these perishable blessings which you give, you 
must know that there is no comparison between things perish- 
able and things imperishable. As for these gifts of yours, you 
yourself might well take them away from me because of some 
trifling annoyance. In any case, the passage of time will sweep 
away both you and me. But concerning the joy everlasting, 
Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks thus: “And no one shall take 
your joy from you .” 1 

‘The career and life which you chose for me would be fair 
and beautiful indeed, but for the fact that it passes speedily 
away. If you can be certain that it is permanent, it is exceed- 
ingly good and desirable. But since you cannot guarantee this, 
why should you not forgive me if I choose to renounce it, 
thereby to attain the life which is most to be desired? Why 
are you astonished, O king, at my yearning for eternal bless- 
ings, rather than being amazed at your own attachment to the 
transitory pleasures of this world? 

‘You state that you have driven away from me the impos- 
tors, deceivers and charlatans and silenced men’s tongues from 
making any mention of them. This would certainly have been 
a very great favour to have done me, if only you had applied 
these epithets to those who deserve them. But the truth is that 
you drove away from me the holy priests of Christ and the 

1 John, xvi. 



blessed Fathers and mentors of my life, and set me down in a 
desert and waterless place without any spiritual teacher and 
intercessor, among the serpents and the scorpions, the wild 
beasts and the devils. Fearing for my sake, you rose in opposi- 
tion to Christ the true God, and exterminated those righteous 
Saints of His and elect teachers of salvation who spurned this 
world. You left me alone to the mercies of the real impostors, 
deceivers and liars! But God the omnipotent, Father of my 
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, gave me knowledge through His 
Holy Spirit to attain to understanding of His most holy 

‘You went on to speak of my desperate, wretched and fickle 
character, and my boredom with the world and failure to 
appreciate its benefits. But why should I not be desperate, 
seeing that despair of this world induces peace, comfort and 
rest? And this wretchedness of mine here below is in fact an 
advantage, in that it ensures me life eternal and unending. 
How could I fail to tire of this world, seeing that the world 
itself wearies of those people who are in love with it? How 
could I avoid being fickle towards the world, seeing that the 
world itself is fickle in its treatment of mortal men, and even 
you yourself are bound to feel the manifold effects of its fickle- 
ness? Or why should I rely on its benefits, seeing that these 
benefits are bad? Today it bestows them and tomorrow takes 
them away, and then extracts retribution for them. 

‘So now, O king, you should take good thought for yourself. 
Great is God's mercy towards you and the patience with which 
He waits for your repentance. But you defy Him, oppose His 
faith and reject His blessings, while He desires mankind to turn 
unto true repentance. For this reason, He has refrained from 
punishing your arrogance, nor has He abandoned you to the 
fecklessness and evil to which you have surrendered yourself 
nor exacted retribution for your treatment of the Saints, His 
servants .’ 1 

Then the king realized that his own wrath was merely 
inflaming that of his son, and feared that Iodasaph's outburst 
would rob him of his self-control. So he arose abruptly and 

1 Marginal note by the scribe : ‘This is the way to denounce the godless, 
and those that love this world!’ 



went off to his palace weighed down with sorrow, beset with 
woe and overwhelmed with consternation. 

46. On the next day, the king came again to his son, clasped 
him to his bosom and embraced his neck and said : ‘O my son, 
flesh of my flesh, it is unworthy of you to cast doubt on my 
integrity in all our discussions and accuse me of willingly 
abandoning the better course, choosing the path of perdition 
and preferring falsehood to truth. You know full well the firm- 
ness and resolute character of my mind. If you were to allege 
that the laws of truth were irksome to me, and that therefore 
I was lured into caprice and self-indulgence, the fact is that 
you and everyone else must admit how patiently I observe the 
dictates of my own religion. Many a time I have emptied my 
treasure houses to build temples for the idols and their minis- 
ters, and donated all my riches to them, and many a time I 
have treated with veneration a man of humble birth when 
I have known him to walk virtuously the path of my religion. I 
would even arise from mv throne and step forward to greet him, 
and remain standing before him like a slave — just as a slave 
might stand in front of his lord. Now if my only aim was to 
enjoy myself, as you profess to believe, why ever should I have 
exterminated men vowed to repentance, who have quitted 
worldly enjoyment and left it entirely in my hands, and who 
asked for no share of it nor vied with me for anything what- 
soever? For killing and torture occur only when men are 
wrathful and exasperated: in a state of exasperation, turmoil 
agitates the heart and passion the soul, and the mind is pain- 
fully excited. 

‘What foolish wretch could possibly fall into a delusion such 
as that which you attribute to your own father — namely to be 
so addicted to passions and lusts as to promulgate them as a 
body of religious dogma and then lavish his treasures on those 
who profess it, and sharpen his sword against those who oppose 
it? What is more, you know the rectitude of my judgment and 
the justice which I mete out to widows, comfort to orphans, 
alms to the poor and crippled, and how I myself bear their 
infirmities for them, and distribute my wealth amongst them. 
You are aware that on my frequent encounters with the poor 
and maimed, or with widows and orphans, I can never pass by 



them without making full provision for their need. How then, 
my child, could you come to hate my faith and conceive such 
distrust towards me? How can you assert that I have erred 
from the path of righteousness, chosen an unworthy course of 
conduct, and taken up my stand upon the road of iniquity? 
How is it that you question my tested percipience and known 
discernment, my sound judgment in recondite matters and my 
ability to solve dubious questions, while trusting blindly in 
your own perception? Yet it is clear that some precipitate 
impulse has suddenly altered your whole outlook, without your 
examining the matter, nor even referring it to some wise coun- 
sellor or learned teacher, or some loyal confidant or judicious 
man of experience ! How can you be so certain that the devil 
has not seen through your stupidity and weakness and exalted 
you as if you had attained to divine knowledge, while in reality, 
he has been laying a snare for you through the tongue of his 
accomplice, Balahvar? How else can you account for this affair, 
into which Satan has lured you in your ignorance? How is it 
that without recourse to a just arbiter, to reliable witnesses or 
to any intelligible evidence, you venture to conclude that truth 
is on your side and falsehood on mine? In this, my son, you 
resemble one of those pious devotees whose ears have been 
assailed by falsehood, and they have gone astray because of the 
very novelty of it. Later on, they have had insight into the 
truth, but falsehood having once caught on has by now taken 
root within their heart, so that they persist in regarding errors 
as more true than truth itself. So now you too must beware, my 
son ! I know that your heart inclines towards virtue, and this is 
the greatest blessing which the gods can vouchsafe to you and 
through you to us also, for the noble tradition of your fathers 
will have prevailed upon you!’ — And the king went on to 
enumerate all his ancestors by name, and taught Iodasaph their 
pedigree and related their life stories to him . 1 

When Iodasaph heard the king’s words, he understood that 

1 In the Arabic Book of Bilauhar and Budasaf, from which our Georgian 
text is thought to derive, there follows here a long account by King Janaisar 
(Abenes) of the doings of his royal ancestors Baisam, Shabakhna, Talzin and 
Filantin, who are portrayed as faithful followers of al-Budd (the Buddha). See 
Povest' 0 Varlaame i lo safe, trans. Rosen, Moscow, 1947, pp. 133-8. This fact 
strengthens one's conviction that the author of the Georgian Christian ver- 
sion had an ancient Arabic text before his eyes. 



the devil was laying a snare for him and that he must prepare 
to muster all his strength to combat the evil one. So he said to 
the king : ‘There is nothing which I desire more, O king, than 
to reconcile my own welfare with your convictions. But if in 
spite of all my striving, I fail to conform to your beliefs, I must 
nevertheless have regard to my own salvation, however much 
this may displease you. I used to imagine that Your Majesty’s 
command of language was lucid, vigorous and devoid of error, 
even though in practice, your deeds are false. But now it is 
obvious that the infirmity of your mind and outlook is even 
more grievous and severe than the sickness which affects your 
practical behaviour. My present duty, O king, is to make every 
effort to counteract your present trend of thought through the 
agency of wisdom, which is a quality by no means alien to it, 
for I am bound to feel concern for your mind’s sake and must 
seek out a cure for it. I have no desire to transgress the bounds 
of courtesy by the candour with which I address Your Majesty. 
At the same time, anyone who speaks to you with base flattery 
is no loyal subject of yours. 

‘Now calm away your indignation and examine your own 
best interests ! You must realize that you are fated soon to die 
and leave all your worldly glory to others, just like all other 
mortals who have already departed this life and left their 
belongings to others. Afterwards you will be raised up once 
more, and called upon to give an account of your words and 
deeds. Now there are none remaining in this world who have 
spoken and taught the right doctrine and put it into practice 
except for those men who are servants of Christ the Lord and 
abide in the wilderness, and who believe in the Holy Trinity 
and its sacred creed. Those hermits have knowledge of the retri- 
bution which is due to each individual person, be it bliss or be it 
torment. Now choose some learned exponent of your religion, 
and let us hold a formal disputation together concerning the 
true faith, until truth has been distinguished from falsehood.' 

When the king had listened to these words of his son, he was 
dumbfounded. As soon as he recovered his wits, he started to 
ponder and reflect, and to struggle against his own impulses. 
But he was sore beset by his desires, which fought him hard and 
reminded him of the pleasures and ease to which he was accus- 
tomed; and his inward voice spoke to him, saying : ‘You cannot 



exist a single day without the things you are used to, and if you 
admit your error and change your convictions, you will incur 
bitterness and reproach.’ So he abandoned all hope of departing 
from his existing habits, and could think of no other course 
than to serve and glorify the idols. 

Then the king said to his son : ‘My child, what you have said 
has intrigued me and converted me to your point of view. Now 
I must enquire into your words without delay, and investigate 
them calmly. If they turn out to be true, then they will shine 
forth the more brightly in the course of my examination. But if 
they be false, their error will be shown up. So I propose to gather 
the people together and hold a debate in a spirit of equity, not 
of violence. I will command the herald to proclaim an amnesty 
to all the Christians, who belong to your faith, so that they may 
come to my assembly for a just verdict to be reached there in 
the presence of the whole nation. Nobody must have grounds 
for imagining that I have used coercion or for declaring : “Had 
I attended that assembly myself, I should have uttered a 
triumphant oration by which the entire people would have been 
quite convinced and our cause completely vindicated ! ” ’ 

47. Iodasaph was reassured by the king's speech, and they made 
arrangements for the assembly. On that day, there was a great 
concourse. The ministers of the idols came out to lend their 
support to Nakhor, who was feigning to be Balahvar, as we have 
mentioned earlier, and whom Rakhis had enlisted on his side. 
But no one from among the professing Christians attended the 
gathering, except for a certain man who followed the faith of 
Our Lord Jesus Christ in secret. His name was Barakhia — that 
same man of whom we have spoken earlier, who told Iodasaph 
about the conspiracy framed by Nakhor at the time when the 
latter was brought in from the wilderness disguised as Balahvar. 
And Barakhia was ready to support Balahvar in case he wavered 
at any stage in the debate. 

The king took his seat upon his throne, but Iodasaph sat upon 
the ground, for he had no wish to be seated on a throne. First 
the king began to address the idol-worshippers and said: 
‘Behold, you are the heads of this faith, which we have received 
from you, and wherein we have followed your precepts. Strive 
to vindicate this faith today ! And if your victory be made mani- 



fest and decisive, good will be the reward which I shall bestow 
upon you, as a worthy recognition of your righteousness. But if 
your discourse is shown to be a pack of falsehood and lies, no 
one will be deemed so impudent as you and no one will have 
incurred such guilt as yourselves, both in regard to me per- 
sonally and in regard to the entire nation, O ministers of the 
idols. I have made a vow to the gods that if today your doctrine 
is shown to be false, and you are justly declared to have been 
vanquished by your opponents, then I shall break my crown, 
overturn my throne, shave off the hair from my head and join 
the ranks of the monks. I shall burn those gods of yours with 
fire and exterminate you, their acolytes; and your houses shall 
be pillaged and your children given into bondage. And I shall 
hang your bodies from the gibbet. But if you can avoid being 
defeated, then your punishment too can be averted/ 

Iodasaph said in response : ‘O king, you have promulgated a 
just decree, and no one has the right to carry justice into execu- 
tion but a monarch. However, I deem it my duty also to imitate 
Your Majesty’s example, for you have decided rightly.’ Then 
Iodasaph said to Nakhor, who was feigning to be Balahvar: 
‘Behold, you know, O Balahvar, amid what luxury and delights 
you found me, and how you called upon me to adopt your creed, 
assuring me of your sincere attachment to it. And I abandoned 
my humility towards the king and overcame my fear of him, 
and resigned myself to a life spent in austerity; and I followed 
you for the sake of my desire for the kingdom of heaven which 
you preached to me, guaranteeing it to be everlasting, and also 
for fear of the perpetual torments with which you threatened 
me. Behold now, the multitude of our foes is gathered together 
and there is no one among this crowd to lend me aid. You have 
heard the king's equitable declaration, and I too shall act with 
complete impartiality. If you have been laying some trap for me 
to deprive me of the worldly enjoyments which are given to 
men for their comfort, and have cast me by your wiles into 
damnation; if again you are defeated in this disputation by a 
true verdict or through the weakness of your cause, then I shall 
instantly vent my wrath on your heart and tongue, for I shall 
tear them out with my own hands and cast them to the dogs, 
which are readier to tolerate deceit and vilification than are 


royal princes. This oath I utter before God and His angels, and 
verily you shall not escape from my hands I ’ 

When Nakhor heard these words of Iodasaph’s, he realized 
that he had fallen into the snare which he himself had dug, and 
perceived the evil fate and perdition which faced him, now that 
death threatened him from both sides. He saw that his only 
hope of avoiding doom lay in employing his whole heart and 
strength to support and advocate the creed of Balahvar, and 
thereby pacify the king’s son. He was confident that the king 
would pardon him, in view of the plot they had framed together. 
So Nakhor opened his lips and began to denounce the idols and 
their acolytes and then to praise the faith of the Christians and 
their sacred laws. Such a pitch of devastating eloquence did his 
speech attain, with such cogency of repartee, that even Balahvar 
himself could not have equalled it, nor could any of the devotees 
of the idols refute Nakhor on a single point in his oration . 1 

At this the blessed Iodasaph was joyful in spirit. His face 
became radiant through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and he 
thanked and glorified God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who had fortified His religion through the mouth of His 

The debate between them continued for a long time. King 
Abenes was filled with indignation at Nakhor’s success, but was 
ashamed to wreak vengeance upon him in the people’s presence 
for fear that his own unjust behaviour should be exposed to 
public view. So the king reflected: ‘I have brought this evil 
upon myself ! ’ Thereupon the king began himself to speak and 
argue with Nakhor. Since he expressed himself with hot- 
tempered force and in angry tones, Nakhor took fright, thinking 
that the king resented the extent of his superiority in this 
debate, and this hampered him in formulating his arguments. 
This in turn encouraged the idolaters, for Nakhor began to give 
way of his own accord through fear of the king. And the king 
and all his subjects followed the debate with bated breath. Even- 
ing drew on while the debate was still in progress, and victory 

1 At this point, the Greek version inserts into the narrative the text of a 
very cogent defence of the Christian religion called the Apology of Aristides, 
attributed to a second century Athenian philosopher of that name. Thereby 
the author of the Greek version enhanced the effect of this episode and gave 
concrete evidence for Nakhor’s prowess against the idol-worshippers. 



was not yet made manifest on either side. The prince for his 
part, fearing that Nakhor would fall victim to the king's cruelty, 
readily forgave him for flagging in his opposition to King 

At length Iodasaph said to King Abenes : ‘Today, O king, you 
have started off this business on the basis of justice ! So let it be 
completed on the same footing. Now grant me one of two 
alternatives : either hand over my teacher to me, so that he may 
abide with me, and we may labour together on the principles of 
our faith, and so that he may be free from intimidation, lest the 
voice of truth be silenced by fear. And do you take your own 
mentors with you, and do with them whatever you desire. Or 
else deliver your counsellors to me, and take my master to your- 
self. But if you take both your advisers and mine away with 
you, then yours will be in tranquillity, but mine will be cut off 
from me and remain a prey to terror and tribulation. Such a 
proceeding would be tyrannical and unjust.' 

The king was reluctant to leave his high priests with the 
prince his son, for fear that the latter might convert them from 
idolatry by means of his eloquence. Still hoping that Nakhor 
would secretly find means to carry into effect the stratagem they 
had plotted together, the king handed Nakhor over to his son. 
The prince went off into his palace and took Nakhor along with 
him. And the entire people still imagined that Nakhor was 
really Balahvar. 

Then Prince Iodasaph said to Nakhor secretly in the night : 
‘I know that you are really Nakhor and not Balahvar, but I have 
shielded you, Nakhor ! Be glad rather, for today you have done 
much good work and greatly furthered the faith of our sacred 
Lord by your eloquence. Now I have taken you away to protect 
you from the king’s vengeance. However, if your lips are 
unwilling, we have no desire to avail ourselves of their help on 
behalf of our religion. Rely rather on your own intelligence, 
give ear to the gospel message of God’s Son, turn with sincerity 
to confess Christ and His religion and wait for the rewards and 
retribution which He metes out, for you must soon pass away 
just as earlier generations passed away. Beware of choosing 
perishable joys in preference to those imperishable delights 
which flow from Christ ! ' 

Nakhor said : ‘I am ready, O king’s son, to accept what you 



urge upon me. I believe in God and recognize that all things 
owe their existence to Him, and that He metes out eternal 
retribution to mankind according to their deeds. I prostrate 
myself before God because of my sins, for He is the Prince of 
mercy. I know that you are sincere in exhorting me to follow 
this course. Even previously I have been aware of the truth, but 
I followed my own inclinations and was reluctant to depart 
from the faith and the evil customs of my ancestors. Rejoice, O 
prince, in God’s favour and in His good rewards which you will 
receive if you perform His will. And I advise you to honour your 
father and live together with him in a conciliatory spirit, until 
God provides a way for you to follow. The nature and object of 
our plot is known to you, O prince. What words can I address 
to the king if I encounter him, in view of the shame which I 
must needs feel in his presence? I have failed completely to 
justify the hopes which he placed in me ! So now I beg you to 
let me depart and abide in the wilderness with the servants of 
Christ. If the Lord wills it, I will come again to see you in a 
little while.’ 

The king’s son gave his permission and bade him go in peace. 
After saying goodbye to lodasaph, Nakhor departed full of faith 
in Christ, and inspired with deep repentance for his previous 
misguided conduct. And he dwelt among the hermits according 
to the true monastic rites and rules. All who heard of this offered 
up praise to Christ our God. 

When the news about Nakhor reached King Abenes, he fell 
into despair, now that he had lost all hope of converting his son 
through Nakhor’s agency. So the king deferred for a time the 
debate with his son, and began to despise the cult of idols and 
expressed contempt for them on numerous occasions, as well as 
lack of respect for their acolytes. However, he could not quite 
bring himself to adopt the way of God’s service for himself, 
lodasaph for his part treated the king with friendly kindness, as 
Nakhor had advised him, and never rebuked him for his 

48. A few days later, the grand festival of the idols fell due. 
The king used formerly to impart great pomp to this event. But 
now that the pagan priests saw how the king despised the idols 
and their acolytes, they feared that he might not attend their 



celebration nor offer any sacrifice to the idols, to their intense 
humiliation. Therefore they arose and went to a certain man 
who dwelt in the wilderness among the mountains and had 
renounced and rejected the life of the world and the flesh. His 
name was Thedma, and he was an adherent of their faith. The 
king and his whole people greatly relied on him, to the point of 
imagining that rain and sunshine were granted to their country 
according to his prayers. So they brought the hermit to the king 
to give him encouragement and banish doubt and despondency 
from his heart. 

The king caught sight of Thedma as he entered his presence, 
wearing no clothes except for an old rag girding his loins, and 
leaning on a staff. It was a long time since the king had seen the 
hermit, so he jumped up quickly as soon as he set eyes on him, 
fell down before him and adored him, and embraced his legs. 
Then he stood up before him as a slave stands before his master, 
until Thedma bade him be seated. The king sat down, and 
Thedma answered and said to the king: ‘Your Majesty! May 
you live through the power of the idols. I have heard that you 
have striven doughtily in the campaign against the devils. I was 
delighted when I learnt that victory was granted to you.’ 

The king said : ‘No victory was accorded us at all ! Never did 
we stand in such need of warriors and knights as we do today. 
Now what help can we expect from you ? ’ 

Thedma answered : ‘It is fitting first of all for us to celebrate 
the great festival which is at hand, rendering to the gods due 
tribute for all the victories and successes which they bestow. 
Only after this should we engage the foe and struggle steadfastly 
against him, being equipped afresh with all the armoury needed 
to assure us victory.’ 

The Amorous Wife 

The king said to Thedma: ‘Your situation and mine resemble 
that of a certain military commander who possessed a most 
attractive wife. Now that man was extremely jealous in regard 
to women and feared that his wife might become frustrated and 
be unfaithful to him. So he said to the lady: “I know the fickle- 
ness and weakness of womankind. I have an enemy after me, 



who is coming to seduce you. So watch out and be firm. And I 
will give you a signal. — Whenever you feel an urge for sexual 
intercourse, let your hair down. When I see this sign, I will give 
battle to the foe and satisfy your desire, and his rage shall not 
triumph over you ! ” 

‘The woman acted accordingly, and they lived together for a 
long time without any sin being committed. But one day foemen 
approached and there was an alarm, and the warriors sallied 
forth to repulse the enemy. So our hero too arose and donned 
his armour. When his wife saw him decked out in his panoply, 
she was filled with sexual desire, for that hero was a splendid 
knight. So the woman gave the signal which she had learnt from 
her husband. When the man saw this, he went back into his 
house and stayed there until he had quenched his wife’s passion. 
After this, he sallied forth to encounter the foe. By the time he 
emerged, the army was already returning from the fray. The 
soldiers started to rail at him and say : “You were too frightened 
to sally out, until you heard that we had put the enemy to 
flight!” But the champion said to them: “My private foe was 
battling with me ! I could not leave him in order to fight outside 
enemies, for he was my most domestic and immediate foe. Now 
that I have conquered him, I can rejoin your company.” 

‘Thus it is with us, 0 Thedma ! Today we are involved in an 
affair which affects both us and the idols. But first of all I have 
to exterminate my own personal enemies. If afterwards we 
establish that the idols are really gods, then we shall offer up 
sacrifices to them. But if they cannot be proved genuine deities, 
what can such imaginary beings profit us?’ 

Thedma retorted : ‘There is no more reliable coat of mail or 
sharper sword to use against enemies than the celebration of 
festival rites. No measures can bring you nearer to victory than 
offering up sacrifices to the idols. Thereby you will be fortified 
against all and every foe.’ 

The king replied : ‘I have been wondering and fearing that it 
is the true faith itself which we have been fighting. However, if 
you so wish, then you can go and celebrate the festival. But I 
shall remain sceptical until it is revealed to me what course is 
best. Otherwise, you are welcome to reveal the truth to me, if 
you have some firm evidence in your hands. If you can disperse 



the misgivings from my heart, then I too will join you in 
celebrating the holiday festivities.' 

At this, Thedma was enraged. He threw down the staff which 
he held in his hand, tore off the rags which he had wound round 
his loins, entwined his fingers together, and stood naked in front 
of the king, and said to him: ‘If you have no love for your 
kingdom, O king, and are turned into a slave; if you have aban- 
doned splendour for poverty and luxury for hardship; if you are 
resolved not to spare that pampered and cosseted body of yours 
and propose to quit all this comfort for the sake of embracing 
misery to which you are not accustomed and will never be able 
to endure — then I am made of even sterner stuff. I can easily 
cast away this stick and these rags, but shall not yield to false- 
hood. I am not afraid of the monastic path, because there is no 
existence more austere and harsh than my life, which I patiently 
endure. This world has nothing to demand from me, nor have I 
anything to demand from this world, apart from the earth on 
which I crawl along, and the grass on which I nourish myself. 
So let us set out together, Your Majesty, for your mind has hit 
upon a good idea ! ' 

When the king heard these words of Thedma, he despaired of 
getting help from him and realized how impotent was their 
faith. And the brood of doubt multiplied within his heart. He 
resolved to confess the true God, and began to ponder and medi- 
tate within himself. But as he was considering the matter in his 
mind, there arose within him the spirit of love of this world, 
which recalled to him the varied flavours and enjoyments which 
are forbidden by the Christian faith. And he was overcome by 
his old habits, to which he had ever been in bondage. So he gave 
orders for preparations to be made for the festival, according to 
established custom. 

49. When the festival was over, the king asked Thedma: ‘How 
are we going to set about converting my son?’ 


The Youth who had never seen a Woman 

Thedma answered the king: ‘You must get devils to operate on 
him through the wiles of women, for these can wound the spirit 



more deeply than a two-edged sword . 1 I once heard of a certain 
king who had a son. And the physicians declared to that 
monarch : “If the child sees the sun before he is ten years old, 
the light of his eyes will be extinguished, for we observe that 
their pupils are weak of vision.” So the king hollowed out a cave 
in the ground and ordered his son to be brought up there in 
company with his nurse. When the boy was ten years old, he 
had him brought out. Since the lad had never set eyes on any 
other living being, his father ordered a specimen of every kind 
of creature to be set before him one by one, so that he might 
learn the identity of each one that he saw. In addition, finely 
arrayed girls were to be placed in his path. And they did so. 

‘The boy asked about every kind of being, and they gave him 
information about them. He also enquired about the girls. They 
told him : “Those are devils which agitate and ruin men ! ’ The 
boy was filled with longing for those devils. His father asked 
the lad : “What was the most beautiful thing you saw during 
your walk?” The boy replied: “I have seen nothing fairer than 
those devils, and there is nothing I desire more than them ! ” — 
So now there is nothing which will avail Your Majesty better 
than ravishing maidens, whom you should introduce to his 
presence at all times of day, so that the devil may exercise his 
powers through their agency.’ 

Then the king ordered all his son’s retainers to be removed 
from his palace, and replaced them with beautiful and comely 
girls chosen from every quarter of his domains to act as 
Iodasaph’s servants. Then the prince’s palace was filled with 
their allurements. The king’s son suffered greatly from their 
efforts to beguile him, and his mind was disturbed in a way 
which he had never known before. The king told these girls to 
sing and entice him at all times of the day and night, so they 
decked themselves out and tantalized him with every kind of 
temptation with which they sought to arouse his appetites. 
They were very zealous in carrying out the king’s instructions. 
Sometimes they would exhibit themselves in male disguise, 
sometimes put on armour and parade in front of him, or else 
they would take on the guise of hunters or of musicians, with 
harps and trumpets and cymbals, and besiege his ears with all 
kinds of melodies. At other times they would invade his room 

1 Proverbs, v. 4. 

K 145 


stark naked and lure him on with lascivious talk, urging him to 
sally forth a-hunting or go for a walk in the gardens of delight. 
Whenever the prince went out, the girls also mounted their 
steeds and scampered round about him. In all this, they were 
fulfilling the king’s instructions, and they succeeded in shaking 
his convictions more than any eloquence of man could have 

Now among these girls was a certain king's daughter, who 
had been brought as a captive to King Abenes. She was fairer 
than all the others and more intelligent than they; and the 
prince fell in love with her because of her beauty and wisdom, 
since she was extremely clever and resourceful. The prince 
would often discuss religious problems with her and talk of the 
transitory nature of this world, reminding her of God and con- 
demning the error of the idolaters. When the king heard of this, 
he was delighted to hear of Iodasaph’s love for this maiden, for 
he imagined that he would prevail over his son through her 

One day the girl said to Iodasaph: ‘If you want me to pay 
heed to your exhortations, O prince, then grant me but one 
year’s solace in your arms. I promise you that I shall then con- 
fess your faith, and both of us will serve your God until our 

Iodasaph said to the maid: ‘And whence shall come my 
recompense if death should overtake me before the year is up ? ’ 

The girl answered: ‘If death should overtake you, you will 
be rewarded by the fact that I have been converted. You will 
not be held guilty for following my desire, for you yourself 
say: “Marriage is honourable in all.” 1 ’ 

Iodasaph said : ‘That is so, but I should not win the grace of 
self-denial with those who have endured and quenched the fur- 
nace of the flesh. What is more, I fear that self-indulgence might 
entice me into some worse enterprise, or that sin might rule me 
and hurl me into damnation, or that I might turn out to be an 
enemy of God and a friend of the devil.’ 

The woman replied : ‘Spend one month with me, or even one 
night, and I will fulfil all your command and desire. Surely so 

1 Hebrews, xiii. 4. — Note by the copyist : ‘Christ, deliver us from the snares 
of the devil.’ 



trifling an indulgence as this cannot affect the reward due to 
you for recovering an erring soul, reconciling it with God, and 
procuring for it salvation after death?’ 

Iodasaph was favourably disposed to carry out her request, 
because his natural instincts inclined him to do so. He made her 
swear that she would confess God’s faith. His reason was taken 
captive by their mutual passion, which threw his mind entirely 
off balance. But Our Lord Jesus Christ came to his rescue and 
would not let him go to his damnation, according to the words 
of the Psalmist David : ‘I inclined to fall violently, and the Lord 
caught me with his hand; and had the Lord not come to my 
help, my soul would straightway have found itself in Hell .’ 1 

Plunged in thought, Iodasaph spent the night in vigil, pray- 
ing to God that He would assist him and open to him the door 
of righteousness, and then he dropped off to sleep. Blessed is 
God. who fulfils the desire of those that fear Him ! As he slum- 
bered, Iodasaph had a vision. He dreamt that he had arrived in 
the kingdom of Heaven and saw the many-coloured delights, the 
gilded temples and all the attendant luxury, far surpassing any- 
thing which is to be seen in this world upon earth. And then at 
the side he caught sight of those women his tempters, whose 
wiles had wounded his soul. In comparison with the Joys of 
paradise, their faces seemed to him more hideous and unsightly 
than dogs' or pigs’ snouts. The prince heard a voice saying: 
‘This is the abode of rest for the saints and the steadfast, and 
here they shall enjoy eternal ease.’ Afterwards they took him 
into hell and he saw the terrible torments suffered by each sinner 
there, which nobody can enumerate except God who devised 
them. Again he heard a voice saying : ‘This is the retribution of 
godless mortals and sinners, who had abandoned Christ our God 
and fallen in love with this world. Here they shall be tormented 
for ever and for all eternity.’ 

When Iodasaph awoke and opened his eyes, he saw the girls 
standing round him weeping and lamenting, for they imagined 
that he had died in the course of that prolonged dream. Iodasaph 
arose and began to examine their attractions. And he was 
amazed how insignificant and ugly they appeared to his eyes 
compared with those joys which he had beheld in his vision. 

The king came to visit his son, because he had heard about 

1 Cf. Psalm xriv. 17. 



this incident; and he enquired what Iodasaph had seen, and 
what thoughts were in his mind. So Iodasaph told him every- 
thing which he had witnessed in paradise, its beauties and 
unparalleled delights. Afterwards he told him what he had seen 
in hell, and its unbearable and fearsome torments. Then he said 
to the king : 'My father, I wish to go away into the wilderness 
and live as a monk among the hermits and there to serve the 
life-giving God, because of my desire for that felicity and my 
fear of those torments which I have seen.' 

50. When the king heard his son’s words, he was cast down 
with grief and filled with mortification. Unable to bear this or 
to conceal his feelings, he cried aloud before all the people and 
said : ‘Never has a greater or more terrible evil befallen me and 
yourselves than this tragedy of my son. If some monarch or 
potent enemy were to kidnap my son, we should not submit to 
this, nor would we spare our own lives in his defence. We 
should sacrifice ourselves unreservedly, as both I and yourselves 
are bound to do for my son's sake. You recall how I persecuted 
the enemies of our religion, and how I killed them and burnt 
them with fire. And now I fear that if the boy is going to run 
wild and start associating with the anchorites as a result of his 
ignorance and folly, then one of my enemies may slay him. If 
I exact vengeance for his blood, I shall then be condemned for 
injustice ! Having once tried to exterminate the hermits, how 
can I now abandon my own son to their tender mercies? If I 
give in, then the reproach of weakness will remain upon me and 
yourselves for ever, and we shall be turned into a laughing stock 
for our foes. If only we could find a man capable of solving this 
problem with which I am burdened — one who could teach me 
how to treat the boy and afford me aid in these troubles of mine 
— then I would grant him respect and honour greater than what 
is accorded to myself. We must not neglect this matter nor relax 
our efforts until we succeed in finding out the truth about our 
son, and how we ought to deal with him.’ 

Thereupon the dignitaries and grandees said to Abenes: ‘No 
effort must be spared to solve this problem in all its aspects; for 
there is none more eager to secure your happiness than we are, 
nor anyone more affected than we are by Your Majesty’s 
troubles! But in our opinion it is not feasible to divide one 



single realm between two opposing religions, two creeds, and 
two legal systems. We shall never achieve success unless we 
light upon a solution whereby your son, your religion and your 
kingdom may all jointly be restored to health.’ And they con- 
tinued to enlarge on this theme. 

Eventually the king and all his dukes decided to give half his 
kingdom to the prince for him to reign over. The king acted 
thus in order to lay a snare for lodasaph, calculating that 
through transacting affairs of state, he would become wrapped 
up in worldly matters and fall a prey to earthly lusts. 

However, lodasaph saw through their wily ruses, but was 
delighted at the prospect of being enabled to revive the faith 
which his father had suppressed, openly to preach the gospel of 
Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to reunite all His faithful people and 
strive energetically to hold fast to all the precepts of Chris- 
tianity. lodasaph found this prospect highly encouraging. 

The king said to lodasaph : ‘My son, this was not the kind of 
future which I mapped out for you ! I fancied that you would 
be the light of my existence and my successor after my death. 
But you have dashed my hopes, openly resisted me and turned 
the sweetness of my joy in you into bitterness; and you have 
severed the paternal heart-strings which united my breast with 
yours. But I feel myself unable to resist your plea, for the bonds 
of parenthood incline me in your favour and oblige me to act 
according to your desires, and to avoid any deeds which are 
uncongenial to you. You refuse to pardon my faults as I pardon 
yours, nor will you grieve at parting from me, as I grieve for 
your sake. May you live and prosper wherever you may be ! I 
am fully aware that by letting you go, I am humiliating and 
deceiving myself. I am fulfilling your desire because of the love 
of their offspring which reigns in the depths of their fathers’ 
hearts, so that they submit to their children’s behests even 
though they are in opposition to their own wishes. 

‘Thus it is also with a man who gives in to his own inclina- 
tions, even though he knows that they bring blame and harm 
upon himself; but he conceals his faults from men while finding 
excuses for himself, forgetting his own shortcomings and 
priding himself on what little virtue he manages to retain. But 
I, my son, although I am a king, am also a man. My heart is 
tender towards you, as is the way with all men towards their 



children. I cannot go on opposing you, any more than I can 
oppose my own will. You have brought down great evil upon 
my head and your own. But my main wish is to bring this 
matter to the most successful conclusion possible, to do what 
you desire, and seek to cure you and myself in peace and tran- 
quillity. So now I appoint you king over half my realm. 
Administer it yourself as you will. Only let not our enemies 
mock nor the envious rejoice at your estrangement from me, 
nor let me be completely without posterity from you, lest your 
extinction make me suffer death before my time comes to pass 
away ! But if you make your kingdom prosper and manage your 
affairs skilfully, my soul will not be altogether desolate because 
of you. And may your doings be attended perpetually with 
peace, good health, and success.’ 

5 1 . The youth answered the king and said : ‘I have paid heed 
to your words, O king. May God strengthen you with the spirit 
of peace and vouchsafe the best of prosperity to your life and 
reign. However, I cannot accept that authority which you 
bestow" upon me, being unaccustomed to such responsibility and 
quite devoid of any taste for transitory glory. I beseech Your 
Majesty to let me go, that I may depart and rejoin mv brethren 
who abide in the wilderness. Do not place obstacles in my way, 
nor distress yourself unduly. Who knows — perhaps the con- 
clusion of this affair will bring you joy greater than the sorrow 
which today you suffer on my account. As for the evil which, 
so you said, has befallen you — such is the nature of evil that it 
never befalls men when it happens to suit them. The greatest of 
ills is that for which there is no remedy after death. But when 
an evil is curable, then we should submit to it, provided that 
finally normal peace is restored. 

‘It seems to me that Your Majesty has understood nothing of 
the extent of my woes, while I am fully conversant with vour 
own. The chief of mv miseries is that you do not know Jesus 
Christ, the Son of God, and have not listened to the voice of His 
prophets and apostles. Not one of His precepts have you taken 
in; you have no fear of God, nor have you submitted to His 
tribunal of righteousness, nor shrunk from exposing me to con- 
demnation. I have no wish to make my own situation publicly 
known, for I see that your mind is firmly fixed in its refusal to 



acknowledge God, and I do not wish to cause you travail and 
grief. It was you who spied upon me, forced me to bandy words 
with you, and equipped me with boldness to oppose your pater- 
nal authority. You tell me that you have voluntarily incurred 
evil and humiliation for the sake of your love for me and on my 
behalf. But I fail to see what concessions Your Majesty has made 
in my favour, or in what way you have changed your previous 
convictions. You say that you feel tender towards your off- 
spring, as other fathers do. But my impression is that birds, 
animals and wild beasts feel more tenderness towards their little 
ones than you do; for they love their young and sacrifice them- 
selves for their sake not because they see in them heirs to them- 
selves, or a support against their enemies, or a boost to their 
own prestige, but solely from the natural instinct of parenthood. 

‘It is not for my own good, O king, that you desire me to 
remain in this worldly life, but for the sake of your own repu- 
tation. You must realize this clearly, namely that your censure 
detracts from the generosity of your gift and diminishes it. The 
reproaches you heap on my head bring me no benefit; in placing 
this world at my disposal, you are robbing me of my personal 
integrity. I should be better pleased if you would acknowledge 
God, the Creator of all things, the Father invisible. His only- 
begotten Son Jesus Christ and His most Holy Spirit which shares 
His dominion equally and has no beginning, indivisible and of 
essence unmixed, one Deity in three persons, in preference to 
this whole world, filled though it be with precious stones, but 
replete even more with sin and all unrighteousness.’ 

When the king had heard his son’s speech, he was more 
amazed than ever, and loved him still more deeply. He said to 
Iodasaph : ‘My boy ! I levelled no reproach at you, nor did I try 
to coerce you, but only alluded to your opposition and refusal to 
obey me. Never did any king treat a son of his so generously, 
nor any man his brother, as I have treated you. For I have 
handed down my royal estate to you before my own death, per- 
mitted you to abandon my religion and permitted any who pre- 
fer your creed to join you therein. I merely reminded you of 
this, without reproaching you. So set off now in accordance 
with my command, for this will be to my advantage and to 

Iodasaph answered and said to his father : ‘It is not surprising 



that Your Majesty should have acted thus, seeing that you are 
universally known for your extreme magnanimity and noble 
conduct. I am not ignorant of your good deeds, nor do I with- 
hold the thanks I owe you. My only wish is that you should 
crown the favours and goodness which you bestow upon me by 
excusing me from this undertaking which is uncongenial to my 
spirit and has no merit in my eyes. Let me rejoin my friends for 
whom my heart yearns. My soul longs to go out to them swiftly, 
so that I may not miss the joys which are prepared for their 
benefit. I have no desire for a transitory kingdom, administered 
by human adroitness and guile— a kingdom which may exist 
today, but tomorrow will have faded from our sight.’ 

Then King Abenes burst into tears and said to Iodasaph his 
son : ‘My child, my child, do not pour scorn upon your parent ! 
Do not rebel against me and revile my royal estate, for I wish to 
secure your happiness and protect you from shame. Do not 
drive me beyond the limits of endurance or try to humiliate me 
for the sake of your own caprice. Do not place obstacles in my 
way, lest I lose my temper and cancel all the promises I have 
made you, unleashing upon you my wrath and malediction.’ 
When the boy Iodasaph heard the king’s words, he was afraid 
that in his anger, his father would lose all self-control, change 
his mind, and refuse to do what he had promised, so that the 
concessions which Iodasaph had won would be lost. So from 
now on Iodasaph began to humour the king in his behaviour, 
and assumed responsibility for governing the half of his king- 
dom which had been entrusted to him. But that precious jewel 
of his — the pure faith of Christ our God — he kept safely and 
preserved immutably within his mind. 

52. When the king observed how his son had yielded, he re- 
joiced with great joy and ordered a herald to be despatched to 
summon together the dukes and all the dignitaries of the nation 
and the entire people. When they had all assembled in his 
presence, the king ordered a throne just like his own to be set up 
for his son, and seated him upon it. The king began to speak, 
saying : ‘We all of us once belonged to a different creed and a 
different religion from that to which we now adhere. All our 
ancestors, monarchs renowned for their good qualities, and all 
the nation too used to live according to a different creed from 



our present one. But we have given our preference to a religion 
differing from their original creed, though we have no doubt 
that had our forebears been alive today, they could not have 
devised any better body of doctrine for us to adopt now that 
they are dead . 1 Now all you grandees know about my son’s 
behaviour, in fact news of it has spread throughout the entire 
people. We have no right to employ coercion against our son 
because of his opposition to us, seeing that we too rose up in 
rebellion against the faith of our fathers. So now we have given 
our consent to the course which he has chosen for himself. 
Furthermore it is my desire to share with him the use and enjoy- 
ment of my kingdom, and to reveal to him the extent of the 
territory over which he is to reign himself. Whoever wishes to 
follow him, let him proceed to the prince’s domains, for I shall 
force nobody to remain under my own royal authority. Who- 
ever so wills, let him go wherever he likes and follow whichever 
religion he prefers. I shall not hinder anyone who wishes to 
honour and exalt my son, for he is my own child and there is 
nobody more loyal to me than he is. And now I have given 
orders to hand over to him one half of everything which is in 
my store house, both in treasure and in armour, and whatever 
else is to be found there, so that his reign may be associated with 
riches, and he may be equipped to mete out fit reward for merit 
and retribution for deeds of evil.’ 

When the king had finished this speech, orators arose and 
glorified his kingly design; and they pledged their obedience to 
his royal authority and lauded his proposals. Then Iodasaph 
departed to his own palace, attended by a throng of people 
giving voice to praise and applause, and a number of them offer- 
ing their congratulations. After a brief interval, he opened his 
doors and everybody entered in without fear to listen to his 
words of wisdom. Among them were certain survivors of the 
Christian community who had preserved their faith in secret 
but conformed outwardly to the king’s religion from fear of 
death. When they heard of this event, they rejoiced greatly and 
ceased to feel any terror. So they came to visit Iodasaph now 

1 The author of the Greek recension took this as an allusion to the legen- 
dary mission of the Apostle Thomas, who is supposed to have established 
Christianity in India in the first century a.d. Abenes thus appears as 2 
renegade from the Christian religion. Cf. Barlaam and loasaph, ed. and trans. 
Woodward and Mattingly, Loeb Classical Library, 1914, pp. 6-u. 



that the young prince was victorious, and felicitated him on the 
triumph which had been granted to him through the power of 
Christ Jesus. They told him of their own religious convictions 
and prepared to depart into Iodasaph’s kingdom. 

When King Abenes had rendered royal honours to his son 
and equipped him for the journey into his own domains, 
Iodasaph arose and went to have a farewell audience with the 
king. He gave thanks to his father and recalled the blessings 
which he had bestowed upon him. Then Iodasaph begged him 
to release all those detained in jail, so that he himself might deal 
with them as he saw fit. The king gave his consent to his plea, 
and Iodasaph ordered them to bring out all the prisoners who 
were detained through failure to pay their taxes to the state. As 
for those who were imprisoned for debt, he ordered their 
liabilities to be discharged from his own coffers, and let them 
go. Concerning those detained for acts of wickedness and 
murder, the prince ordered that provision should be made for 
them out of his own resources, sufficient to provide for them 
amply in prison until God’s will might be made known as to 
what their fate should be. After this he ordered great quantities 
of treasure to be distributed among the disabled, the poor and 
the feeble, and finally set off for his own kingdom. And many 
of the townspeople accompanied him on his journey. 

53. When he had arrived in his own realm, he began by thank- 
ing God and said: ‘Glory to Thee, O God and Father of Our 
Lord and Liberator Jesus Christ, mighty and omnipotent Deity; 
I praise and glorify Thee, O Holy Trinity, who dost govern all 
things with consummate ease.’ — And then he began to address 
the multitude and said : ‘No one has a greater duty to walk in 
justice than a king; and no one is better entitled to address his 
subjects with words of mildness than a king who goes among 
his people administering justice with equity. Men should also 
employ mild words in their dealings with one another. But if 
there is one placed in authority over the people, a man merciless, 
bloodthirsty and rapacious, then he too will have recourse to 
honeyed words whereby to disguise the wickedness of his acts. 
Again, if some ignorant novice should succeed to the throne, he 
will use them to conceal his incompetence until he shall have 
mastered the art of government. But he who diffuses justice 



among the people and administers their affairs well, not robbing 
the honourable of their honour nor the weak of their just 
deserts, a man who sharpens the sword of justice for the defence 
of the entire nation — such a one as this has no need to resort to 
the use of fair words. I for my part have come among you to 
excel not by my eloquence, but by executing righteous justice.' 

After this Iodasaph selected a place of modest appearance, 
neither a royal palace nor a poor man’s cabin, and ordered it to 
be made ready for his occupation; and he had it furnished in a 
style neither majestic nor mean, and stored there all the treasure 
which he had brought with them. Then he came and took up his 
abode in that place. 

54. As for all the regalia which his father had given him — 
including steeds and garments, decorations for thrones, and 
many kinds of royal adornments — he ordered all these to be 
transported to places abroad and sold there, and the proceeds 
distributed among the poor and destitute and people devoid of 
resources who were ashamed to go out and beg. Whereas other 
rulers habituallv enjoy life and rejoice in their pomp and abun- 
dance of fine raiment and excite the envy of the poor by their 
pride and arrogance, Iodasaph applied the receipts from the sale 
of these to comfort the poor and needy. And all people who 
heard of this glorified Christ our God. 

Accordingly Iodasaph ordered letters to be written to every 
district of his realm — to every province, every canton and every 
village — with instructions to compile a register of all the poor 
and needy, the feeble and disabled, and particularly those im- 
poverished people whom shame prevented from hegsing, and 
who suffered seven times more than other paupers; and they 
were all to be entered with their name, that of their village, and 
the extent of their individual needs. When the register was laid 
before him, Iodasaph ordered a great quantity of treasure to be 
distributed among them, to each according to his need, and also 
grants of land to be made. He helped them to build themselves 
farms and provided them with the necessary seed corn, until he 
succeeded in abolishing poverty and misery altogether. Thence- 
forth everyone became prosperous, for which they glorified God 
with united voice; and there was not a single man to be found 



in Iodasaph’s domains who needed to go begging for his daily 
bread or for alms. 

Afterwards Iodasaph ordered an announcement to be pub- 
lished throughout his kingdom that each principality or duchy 
within it should elect for itself a man of upright and worthy 
character, a doer of righteousness and hater of falsehood. Those 
who were elected he appointed to be bishops, that they might 
lead the people to the knowledge of the truth of Christ our God 
in uprightness and virtue, and sustain and govern their flock 
with a right judgment. 

Then he issued orders to the princes and dukes and officials, 
that they should judge the people equitably and administer their 
affairs with mercy and justice, instilling fear into evil doers and 
imparting peace and joy to the virtuous. All their vassals were 
to be instructed to cultivate the land and deliver the correct rate 
of tribute in accordance with their capacities. After this, 
Iodasaph fitted out his troops completely with everything they 
needed and nominated generals and dukes to command them — 
men of worthy, humble and God-fearing character who tried to 
avoid public office; as for such as sought and strove after 
authority, these he excluded completely from posts of command. 

Again, he ordered all the goodly prelates and priests to be 
installed with great honours and built churches throughout his 
land, so that the people might put Christ’s precepts into practice 
according to the words of their pastors. He ordered them to be 
provided with all necessary facilities and provisions, according 
to the position occupied by each one of them respectively. And 
unspeakable joy reigned throughout the land. 

Iodasaph himself attended to the nation’s affairs without a 
moment’s relaxation. First of all he enquired into people’s 
private lives and how they ordered their spiritual problems, and 
then into the facts of their material existence. He treated each 
one of his subjects according to his personal circumstances with 
both generosity and kindness. He relieved them from fear of 
royal despotism, and removed from their hearts all apprehension 
and dread of unfair treatment. 

55. Good order, justice and gladness increased among the 
people, and everybody hastened from all parts to be baptized in 
the name of the Holy Trinity. Every day countless multitudes 



were enrolled into the Christian faith. The superiority of 
Iodasaph’s excellent system became evident, and people began 
to revile their original religion to which they formerly adhered. 
All men’s hearts were filled with affection for him and with 
good wishes for the success of his reign. The works and renown 
of Christianity, of God’s service, and of love and peace became 
manifest to the people, for lodasaph himself set a shining 
example to all men of humility, love and devotion to duty. 
There was nobody left in all his realm serving a different religion 
from that of God the ruler of all things, except for a few indivi- 
duals who departed and settled in the kingdom of his father 
Abenes; these were idolaters who could not bring themselves to 
adopt the faith of Christ. 

Throughout the world there spread the fame of that God- 
loving young man, of his modesty and patience and ineffable 
mercy, and how he combined with all these virtues both wisdom 
and ability. And so there flocked to him from all parts true 
believers who had been concealing their creed and faith through 
fear of King Abenes. They settled in security and great happi- 
ness within his domains and rejoiced in spirit and glorified the 
indivisible Holy Trinity, which manifested the unity of its triple 
essence and revealed the power of the religion of the Christians 
in face of all the godless. Many former devotees of his father’s 
religion also came and abode with lodasaph, making public 
confession of the faith of Christ. Like little children they re- 
ceived baptism in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and 
glorified Christ the true God, incarnate without act of human 
conception of an immaculate virgin who knew no husband, 
born of His Father before all worlds, having no mother, and 
sitting upon the throne together with the Father and the Holy 

56. The renown of the king’s son spread abroad. Great was the 
joy of all the people, and their relief at the cessation of persecu- 
tion in his father’s kingdom. Many were converted and pro- 
fessed the faith of Our Saviour Jesus Christ and the creed of 
lodasaph. The preaching of God’s word became so intense and 
ardent among them that the faithful were multiplied and forti- 
fied so as to outnumber the godless. Then the influence of 
Iodasaph’s father began to wane and men's hearts were alienated 



from him, and people were emboldened to rise in opposition 
against him. They disregarded many of his ordinances, recalling 
to mind his immoral behaviour towards them and his tyrannical 
and cruel actions against them. Popular contempt for King 
Abenes became daily more apparent, and he realized that men’s 
hearts had turned towards his son. He was afraid that they 
would rise in revolt against him, and that someone would kill 
him and seize his kingdom. On this account, he was seized with 
mighty fear and alarm, which affected not only the king but 
also all those who were his favourites and counsellors. Con- 
sequently they all fell into profound despondency and gloom. 

So King Abenes wrote to his son Iodasaph about the situation 
and told him of all his worries, and asked him what he had 
better do. Iodasaph wrote back to him as follows: ‘Let Your 
Majesty be informed that there is nothing which dispels fear 
and removes doubt from the heart of kings more than the exer- 
cise of true justice towards the people and sound and merciful 
administration of their affairs. But there is nothing which 
induces in a monarch such anxiety, ruins his life, and arouses 
in him so much distrust towards the people as does unjust treat- 
ment of his subjects by the king himself. However much you 
may multiply your acts of charity towards the people, it takes 
but the admixture of a little evil to spoil them utterly. Your 
Majesty provides so clear an example of this situation that there 
is no longer any need to consult anybody about the problem. 
You can see for yourself whence come your fears and misgivings, 
and from what quarter you may look for comfort and hope. My 
own opinion is that your sole grounds for fear and misgiving 
arise from the evil deeds which lie behind you, while your only 
source of comfort and hope is the seeds of good which you have 
sown. Renounce now all that induces fear and seek out those 
things which provide tranquillity. Hasten to come to a true 
decision, lest your enemies outstrip you in the quest for felicity ! ’ 

57. When this letter from his son reached the king, he sum- 
moned his dignitaries together and read it to them. They began 
to discuss the problem. Then these men said to the monarch: 
‘O king, live for ever ! We counsel you to get to grips with this 
crisis directly, before it has dire effects for you. By all means try 
to remedy those difficulties which will respond to your efforts, 



but it is no use resisting pressures which are irresistible. The 
destiny of a monarchy depends on public opinion, and you are 
aware that you have treated the people badly. Now you observe 
how their hearts have turned away from you and their minds 
become alienated from you. The best counsel one can give a king 
is to take the right initiative, and the worst, to advise him to 
wait until events force his hand. Today you have the chance of 
choosing the most advantageous course to follow and not allow- 
ing yourself to be overtaken by the force of circumstances. To 
act voluntarily is the most honourable way for a king to 
behave. We would urge you to surrender your entire kingdom 
to your son, if he will consent to this and will declare his 
fidelity to you. But to start with, you must summon together all 
the princes, dukes and dignitaries of your people and concert 
together with them all necessary steps to achieve this aim . 1 For 
kings ought not to carry any measure into effect except in a 
dignified fashion.’ 

Then the king ordered all the nobles to assemble without 
delay. When they had gathered in his presence, he began with 
great deliberation to explain to them the problem at issue. First 
of all he offered up thanks to God for all His blessings. He went 
on to refer to his love for the people, and told of how he used to 
walk among them and watch over their daily wellbeing. Then 
the king reminded the assembly about how he had lacked a son 
and feared for the extinction of the royal lineage, and so had 
promised and made an irrevocable vow to the gods that if a male 
heir were bestowed upon him, and should he himself survive 
until the child grew up and was capable of taking over the 
government of the kingdom, then he, King Abenes, would hand 
over his entire realm to his son and voluntarily abdicate the 
kingship, thereby presenting the gods with the thankoffering 
which he had promised them, and being satisfied from then on 
to live a simple life as a private citizen . 2 

Then he said to all the people: 'You know how a promise 
once made must be fulfilled, and a vow must not be broken. 

1 Note by the copyist : ‘O Christ, have mercy on Michael.’ 

! No previous mention of any such vow by King Abenes is made in our 
narrative. This story of a vow is doubtless to be regarded simply as a face- 
saving stratagem, thought up to enable Abenes to abdicate and extricate 
himself gracefully from an untenable situation. 



When I handed over half my kingdom to my son, I imagined 
that I had carried out my promise. But now I see that its fulfil- 
ment is not complete. Since I have been exposed before the gods 
as a deceiver, I am frightened of the consequences of failing to 
carry out my promise. They will vent their wrath upon my head, 
for I have heard that the gods have the right to wreak vengeance 
on those who fail to fulfil their vows. 1 So now I must make 
every effort to carry out my promise. I am accordingly consult- 
ing you to ask your advice as to what course it will be best for 
me and for you to follow, so please examine the matter care- 
fully !' 

So they replied : ‘Who indeed is under a greater obligation to 
fulfil his vows than a king ! And who has always been more 
punctilious in discharging justice, more steadfast in his dis- 
course, and mightier in his designs than our sovereign ! 2 How- 
ever, this matter on which you are consulting us raises two 
different issues. The first relates to the dishonour which a king 
must incur if he evades or postpones carrying out his obliga- 
tions. If any man deceives his fellow, he is subject to perpetual 
condemnation. How much more hateful then is deceit and false- 
hood committed by a monarch in regard to the gods! What is 
more, the gods are hardly likely to submit to being cheated by 
mortals like us. That which you are keen to retain and jealously 
cling to, they may well take from you in their wrath, without 
giving you any thanks or even consulting your wishes. 

‘The second point is that you are handing over your kingdom 
to your own son, who is the light of your eyes. Quite apart from 
any vow, all men leave their treasures to their children, thereby 
fulfilling the hopes they place in them. Had you made a promise 
in favour of a stranger, it would have been your duty to fulfil it. 
How much the more then, from both points of view, are you 
not bound to carry out your obligation towards your own son ! 

‘However, Your Majesty knows that your son abides in the 
faith of the Christians, whose tenets provide that justice and 
equality must be conferred upon princes and beggars alike. You 
know what persecutions we have inflicted upon those men of 

1 Deuteronomy, xxiii. 21 : “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy 
God thou shalt not slack to pay it; for the Lord thy Go d will surely require 
it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.’ 

a Oriental flattery. 



repentance. We fear that if their creed gains ground and 
becomes our official religion, then we may be called to account 
before the tribunals for the blood which we have shed at your 
behest, and forced to pay compensation for their estates which 
we laid waste at your decree.’ 

58. Then the king wrote to his son in the following terms: 
‘Peace be to you, my son! You know the ease and luxury in 
which I brought you up from infancy, and how I then let you 
follow your own inclination. However grievous the division of 
my kingdom has been to me, and the convulsions which have 
taken place in my realm, none the less I have done this out of 
love for you. Now I want to complete my generosity towards 
you with favours such as no man has ever conferred on anyone 
before, and bestow upon you my entire domains. I propose to 
abdicate my royal estate and retire into private life until my 
days are accomplished, so that the hopes I placed in you may be 
fulfilled, and I may witness in my own lifetime the joyous era of 
your reign.’ 

King Abenes continued his letter by alluding to those men of 
repentance — namely the Christians — and the evil which he had 
done to their persons and their possessions, making the excuse 
that it is not unknown for kings to act with still greater 
savagery against their opponents, for the sake of public security. 
— ‘Now if you will undertake to mediate with the Christians 
on behalf of myself and my associates, then I will relinquish the 
entire kingdom to you, provided that you do not force me and 
my companions to abandon our own religion.’ 

Iodasaph wrote to his father the following answer: ‘Illus- 
trious crowned head and monarch ! You know that no well- 
ordered realm can tolerate two different systems of law and 
administration, and that two contrary tendencies cannot exist 
side by side. With your help, let us put matters on a just basis, 
such as will do honour to your discernment. I suggest that you 
send to me a delegation of your own leading men, such as are 
wise of mind and prudent in judgment so that we may hold 
discussions with them on this question. From this the truth 
will emerge, enabling us all to be reconciled on a just footing.’ 

When the king received his son’s letter, he read it out to his 
associates. They were all pleased with the prince’s answer, since 




they knew that he never did anything that was not strictly just. 

59. Then the king selected from among his followers wise men 
well versed in their own doctrines, and sent them to Iodasaph. 
When they arrived in the prince’s presence, he ordered a like 
number of selected Christian monks to be summoned, expert in 
holy writ. And he said to them: ‘Do not indulge in long- 
winded speeches nor place your trust in your own selves, but 
beseech Christ to grant you power from on high, as it is written 
in the Holy Gospel where it says : “Do not be anxious what you 
will speak.” ’ 1 

When the two sides met together, they undertook to conduct 
their discussion without any element of violence or deviation 
from the matter in hand, but that they would examine one 
another’s viewpoint with impartiality. This would save the 
prince from having to use force to quell the rancour of the 
opposing factions. 

When they had undertaken to follow this procedure, the 
idolaters began by declaring that those seeking to elicit informa- 
tion had the right to pose the first question. — ‘Before making 
any enquiries from you,' they continued, ‘we will inform you 
of our own principles. We serve idols of gold and silver and 
images of stone and wood. Now pray inform us who it is that 
you serve?' 

To this the monks, those servants of Christ our God, replied : 
‘We serve the life-giving God who created us and also created 
gold and silver, stones and wood. You know His name, and can- 
not deny His might. He is chief and supreme over all, and no 
one can attain to His divine majesty, nor can anyone describe 
Him in words or see Him with their eyes. He gave us birth and 
vouchsafed to us knowledge of Himself. We do His will to the 
best of our ability, and what is distasteful to Him, that we avoid. 

‘That is our answer to your question. But what are these gods 
of yours, and what precepts do they teach you? If you are 
prepared to admit that they have neither created us, nor vouch- 
safed any body of doctrine to us, and are in fact incapable of 
creating anything whatever, because they see not, neither do 
they hear, nor utter any sound with their throats — then in that 
event you have no case to advance in reply to us, serving as you 

1 Matthew, x. 19. 



do useless, inanimate objects, which can perform no action, 
either beneficial or harmful.' 

When the idol-worshippers heard this, they were stricken 
dumb. They could find no words with which to answer the two 
propositions. For if they claimed that their idols had created 
them and taught them how they ought to act, then their fraud 
would be exposed and they would be justly put to shame by 
their adversaries’ wise words. But if they admitted that their 
idols were powerless and unable to create anything or perform 
any action either beneficial or harmful, then they would be 
deservedly vanquished, and their opponents’ cause would 
triumph. Since they could find no other solution to help them 
out, they conceded the superiority of the faith and creed of 
Christ our God over every other religion on earth. For they 
observed the great virtues of Iodasaph’s exemplary conduct and 
his exceeding humility and mercy, as a result of which great 
peace and joy prevailed within his kingdom. 

So the idolaters answered and said : ‘O king’s son, what will 
be your verdict concerning us in regard to those previous acts 
which we performed at the orders of your father our sovereign, 
and the blood which we spilt in our ignorance ? ’ 

The blessed Iodasaph said to them: ‘As soon as you shed 
your religion, you may shed simultaneously any misgivings you 
entertain on that score. As soon as you enter into the religion of 
our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, you will enter immediately 
into the realm of peace and joy, for He is the God of peace and 
love, and not of spite and rancour.’ 

Afterwards those men returned into the presence of King 
Abenes and informed him of everything which they had heard 
and seen. Then the king and all his people decided to follow the 
faith of Iodasaph. And they accepted holy baptism in the name 
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The only exception 
was that anchorite named Thedma whom we have mentioned 
previously — the man who advised the king to combat his son 
by the devil’s agency; and this person still refused to adopt the 
Christian faith. 

60. The king and all his people wrote a joint epistle to the 
prince, declaring that they confessed and believed in the Father, 
the Son and the Holy Ghost. When the envoys reached 



Iodasaph, and told him of the decision of the king and the entire 
people, he was filled with exceeding great joy; and he arose and 
lifted his arms aloft towards heaven and offered up thanks to 
Christ, who fulfils the desires of those that fear Him, And he 
treated the envoys with honour, presented them with generous 
gifts and let them go without delay. 

And Iodasaph wrote a letter to his father in the following 
terms: 'To the great and pious king, fortunately entered into 
God’s allegiance : I the slave and wretch Iodasaph greet you in 
the Lord’s name ! First I thank Christ, the Son of God, who was 
made man for the salvation of mankind and saved us from 
servitude and the trickery of idols and redeemed us with His 
innocent and illustrious blood, which He shed upon the Cross. 
I praise and glorify the grace of Him who looked down upon me 
with mercy and has not deprived me of my desire, and has made 
me worthy to look upon your veritable royalty : for now indeed 
you have become a king, whereas previously you were 
accounted lower than a slave. Great are your favours towards 
me, and I cannot sufficiently thank you for everything which 
you have done for me. But greatest of all is the joy which you 
have brought me at this time. For everything which you had 
previously bestowed upon me was as nothing before my eyes. 
But now that you have attained knowledge of the truth, the 
Holy Trinity will be exalted and the religion thereof will shine 
forth more brightly, now that you have adopted it for your own. 

‘At present you must place your relations with me on an 
even loftier footing. You must know that no man can really 
give up one of his friends until he has overcome the long-stand- 
ing habits of old acquaintance. A man’s conversion must like- 
wise be considered dubious until the basic cause of his deviation 
from the truth has been thoroughly rooted out. The veracity of 
your words and the purging of your heart in the sight of God, 
whereby you plan to join with us in serving God and in prayer- 
ful communion, can only be made manifest if you destroy the 
temples of the idols and burn the images with fire for God’s 
sake, so that retribution may be meted out to them for the harm 
they have done to countless nations. By burning them you will 
reconcile yourself with God, just as previously you alienated 
the Deity against you by burning His saints. When you have 
done this, you will have torn down the barrier wall of enmity 



and can receive true and immutable comfort from God the giver 
of life, and from us, His slaves.’ 

When King Abenes received this letter and it was read out to 
him, he arose immediately and all his people with him, and they 
began to destroy and burn the idols and the shrines of the 
images, until the very site they had occupied was no longer to 
be seen. After this the king went forth with all his people to the 
kingdom of Iodasaph his son and surrendered to him his entire 
realm, all except Thedma the hermit, who was tormented with 
redoubled anguish, but still refused to be converted. 

When Iodasaph learnt that the king and all his subjects were 
approaching, he arose and went out to meet them with great 
joy; and he fell down before Abenes together with all the multi- 
tude of Christian believers who had come out with Iodasaph to 
greet the king. Abenes embraced Iodasaph’s neck with great 
affection and kissed him with tears in his eyes. And Iodasaph 
escorted his father with exceeding great honour and entertained 
him with all that pomp and circumstance which he himself had 

61 . One day when Iodasaph was sitting in his father's presence, 
Thedma made his way into their company, bursting with rage 
and intent on provoking Iodasaph into a dispute about religion. 
So he said to him : ‘Tell me, O prince, why you have done this 
thing? What harm have the idols done to you that you should 
treat them with such spite? Did they not once upon a time 
exalt your forefathers to be kings? Did they not elevate your 
father, King Abenes, in regal glory and raise him up higher 
than any other monarch on this earth, as well as driving from 
his heart the pang of childlessness? All the thanks you gave 
them for this was to abandon your faith and betray your father ! 
Why have you cut yourself off from serving your gods by this 
apostasy of yours, as well as alienating your father from them, 
and falsifying the hopes and insulting the memory of all the 
god-fearing monarchs your ancestors?’ 

King Iodasaph answered and said : ‘Listen to me, O utterer of 
falsehood and foe of truth, who have embraced the wisdom of 
this world in all its lunacy, but spurned the supreme wisdom, 
which is the fear of the Lord ! You imagine yourself to be wise 
but are besotted, because those idols which you serve are objects 



of gold and silver and brass, or carved from stone and wood, and 
they can bring no benefit to us or anybody else, nor any harm 
either. How could they be capable of anything, seeing that they 
are themselves dead ? They hear not neither do they see, nor do 
they possess any knowledge. Rouse yourself up from your 
dream, if there be any vestige of life left in you ! This world is 
transitory, as are we men and all the animals and birds, and the 
trees and the various kinds of fruit they bring forth, which 
ripen at different seasons for men’s enjoyment. All this is from 
Almighty God, with whom no other deity can compare, nor is 
there any other creed like His; and He created us by His 
almighty power, that we might glorify Him. 

'God gave us all beautiful things for our delight, so that when- 
ever we behold these good and pleasant things we may believe 
also in that bliss eternal which the eye has not seen, the ear has 
not heard of, nor has the heart any glimmer of perception 
thereof, but which He has prepared for His faithful servants. 
We are assured of this by the prophets, His elected servants, and 
by the glorious apostles. God did not create these delights for 
our mere amusement, or to distract us from obeying His com- 
mandments, but for us to derive benefit from them in modera- 
tion. Thus they should help us to be more diligent in serving 
Him and not captivate our hearts to such an extent that we 
neglect His precepts. If on the other hand this world’s gifts are 
spread out before mankind solely for them to eat, drink and 
enjoy themselves with, while hoping to prolong their sojourn 
therein, then I must say that your idols have given you a pretty 
small share in the world’s goods — in fact nothing but those 
tatters which you have wound round your middle and the staff 
which is in your hand. You are satisfied with this transitory 
world which you praise and put your trust in, but you have 
nothing satisfactory to show for it. If it is good to set one’s hopes 
on this material world, then why do you make no effort to 
improve your own lot? But if these delights were created in 
order to arouse desire in us for that eternal bliss, to confirm our 
faith and provide us with provisions for the way to Heaven, so 
that we may arrive safely in the abode of our Creator and our 
God, then it is clear that your belief is misguided. For you do 
not even know why you are tormenting yourself, whither you 
are bound, or from whom you can expect to receive recompense 



for your labours, seeing that you neither place your hope in the 
hereafter, nor derive any enjoyment from life in this world 
below ! ’ 

When Thedma had heard these words of Iodasaph’s, he was 
silent for a long time as he meditated over what King Iodasaph 
had said, but he could find no answer to give. At length he 
replied and said to him: ‘You have pierced my heart with these 
words of yours, for they have stabbed my soul like a sword. Now 
I should like you to incline your ears to listen to me and discuss 
this question more explicitly.’ 

King Iodasaph said : ‘Behold, I am ready to listen to you and 
apply my mind to debate the question with you. So ask now 
whatever you like.’ 

Thedma answered and said: ‘If those idols we serve are not 
gods, then who is this god of yours?’ 

Iodasaph said to him: ‘My God is the Father of My Lord 
Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth and of all things 
that exist therein, both spiritual and corporeal.’ 

Thedma said: ‘How do you know that heaven and earth 
have ever been created ? ' 

Iodasaph said to him: ‘I know this because there are signs 
and symbols of their origin which witness to the fact of their 
creation, and this is intelligible to the human reason. They must 
logically be either combined or separate, either mobile or 
stationary, and we observe that all created things tend towards 
unity or isolation, motion or tranquillity. Hence I know that 
heaven and earth are of the same nature as created beings; nor 
can they add anything to the glory of the rest of creation.’ 

Thedma said : ‘How can you confirm the testimony of the 
apostles and the prophets, seeing that you have never set eyes 
on them?’ 

Iodasaph said to him : ‘I can confirm it by the fact that every- 
where, in lands far separated from one another, their testimony 
has been accepted, even by kings of differing creeds who were 
at enmity with one another, and between whom no agreement 
existed. Although I have not set eyes on the apostles and the 
prophets, I know of them from incessant reports which cannot 
be discounted and wherein there can be no conspiracy to deceive; 
for they emanate from remote places, and in the east and the 
west, the south and the north, glory is offered up to the Father, 



the Son and the Holy Spirit and their sacred law which God’s 
holy and elect apostles preached. How could there have been 
any prearranged collusion between all these witnesses?’ 

Thedma answered and said: ‘How do you know that the 
prophets speak the truth, and that they are really sent by God?’ 

King lodasaph declared: ‘I know that they speak the truth 
because they have shown the world signs and miracles such as 
no mortal man could possibly effect. These miracles were per- 
formed by divine power, so that the world might believe, and 
all . men might know that their faith is true, and that the 
prophets are the chosen of God among all nations.’ 

Thedma continued to enquire and ask questions of lodasaph 
in his father’s presence. Finally Thedma himself was brought to 
acknowledge and believe in Our Lord Jesus Christ, an inner 
voice prompting him and saying: ‘lodasaph speaks the truth, 
and you are performing a vain task in worshipping the idols.’ 
Then Thedma made his confession aloud, saying : ‘There is no 
god on earth apart from the Father supreme and his only- 
begotten Son and the most holy Spirit, being conjoint in essence, 
God in three persons and of one substance, Creator of heaven 
and earth.’ And he accepted the entire Christian creed and 
believed, and he accepted holy baptism, and from then onwards 
began to observe the commandments of Christ and steadfastly 
offered up prayers to God and glorified His name. 

62. King Abenes persevered mightily in the righteous conduct 
which he had adopted from his son, and made fitting public 
atonement for his previous crimes. But when his death drew 
near, he became very frightened and quaked with dread, and 
great alarm overcame him. 

Then lodasaph said to him : ‘My father ! Why are you terri- 
fied on account of this worldly life? If you were hoping to 
remain on this earth for ever, then surely you realize that no 
man can achieve this. Is it that you wish to attain to the extreme 
limit of old age, when you would be afflicted with many hideous 
infirmities, your head and hands would tremble, and you would 
have lost all the appetites that make life worth living? Or do 
you imagine that you can be restored afresh to youthful vigour 
with your life ahead of you, in addition to the lifespan which 
you have already enjoyed? This also is beyond men’s powers to 



achieve. Or are you wavering in your trust in the Lord’s mercies, 
and reluctant to respond to His summons? Thereby you will 
draw divine wrath down upon your head ! It is your duty now 
to accept with gratitude the call which you have received from 
God, since you have known from the very first that you are but 
a mortal creature within this world, just as all your ancestors 
before you were mortal.’ 

King Abenes answered and said to Iodasaph : ‘No, my son, it 
is not for this reason that my spirit is downcast, as you allege; 
but it is inherent by nature in every soul to feel grief at quitting 
the flesh, leaving the air and the light, and departing to a strange 
and narrow place. I know not what ordeals my soul will encoun- 
ter there, because I have greatly angered God my Maker, and 
have despatched many of my adversaries before me into the 
world beyond, and these will now urge God to wreak vengeance 
upon me. All the days of my life I have cursed God and praised 
idols. I have neither propitiated my Judge nor disarmed my 
accuser. From where shall I receive support when I stand in 
Christ’s presence? Even the time of my repentance has been cut 
short, so that I have not succeeded in making fit atonement to 

The blessed Iodasaph answered and said to his father : ‘Have 
no care, O king, but be glad, because you are going before a 
gracious and much forgiving Sovereign, who grants even those 
of the eleventh hour the same reward as those of the first . 1 He 
will accept this gesture of reconciliation which you offer at the 
very end of your life, for God’s mercies are deficient in nothing; 
neither does the Lord judge according to the way of men, for 
his compassion outweighs all the wickedness of this sinful world. 
Do not belittle God’s mercy; for the Lord’s purposes are not as 
those of men. What is more, the light of this world and its air 
so highly desired by men cannot compare with the light of His 
face and the air of His glory, of which the faithful shall be made 
worthy after they have drunk this draught which you are terri- 
fied to taste. No one may put on the imperishable raiment until 
he has endured the perishing of the flesh. A righteous man con- 
siders this mortal life to be just as cramped in comparison with 
the life hereafter as might a babe emerging from the confine- 
ment of the womb and catching sight of the broad expanse and 

Cf. Matthew, xx. 1-16. 



brightness of the world. Fret not, nor say that your repentance 
is but slight compared with the grievous sins you have com- 
mitted in God’s sight. For in God’s eyes, a little repentance wipes 
out a multitude of great sins, because He lavishes His mercies 
and multiplies their fruit, and the soul shall rejoice therein 

At this, King Abenes regained his courage and rejoiced at his 
son’s words, and was relieved of his anxiety. And he said to 
Iodasaph: ‘May God of His bounty grant you the supreme 
reward, my son, even exceeding the bounds of your hopes. For 
I was lost and you found me, doomed and you saved me, an 
enemy of God and you reconciled me with Him, a corpse and 
you revived me. Now I exhort you, my son, to walk virtuously 
before God and complete your days in fear of Him; let not the 
pomp of kingship turn you away from the love of Christ, for 
all visible creation is but shadowy and transitory, but you 
should always seek out what is invisible. Behold now — where is 
the terror of my own majesty, the multitude of my hosts, the 
courage of my valiant knights, or my countless treasures which 
I heaped up for myself? How shall they come and deliver me 
today from death as it is about to bear me off? Now it is my 
turn to exhort you, my son, just as you have previously 
exhorted me; and I admonish you, just as you have admonished 
me, to despise the world and all its glory, and seek only after 
God. For He is superior to this world with all its abundance. 
But cause me to be remembered in your prayers, O my son ! ’ 1 
— And when King Abenes had pronounced these words, he 
cried out with a loud voice and delivered up his spirit. 

63. Iodasaph bore away his body and laid it to rest in company 
with the remains of other pious believers, not with regal pomp, 
but in the simple grave of a common man. Then Iodasaph raised 
his hands aloft and directed his gaze towards Heaven and said : 
T praise and thank Thee, O God and Father of My Lord and 
Saviour Jesus Christ, O King of Glory, great and mighty, 
unattainable and unknowable, invisible and indescribable and 
infinite, Creator of all things, who didst not make my soul deso- 
late but didst convert this errant slave of Thine, who came to 

l Note by the scribe: ‘Pray for the very sinful David !’ 



know you at the last moment as God supreme, and confessed 
Thy Son, born before all ages, and Thy most Holy Ghost; and 
Thou didst cause him to believe in Thy Holy Trinity. Make him 
worthy to behold the light of Thy face and enter the abode of 
peace in Thy kingdom in company with all Thy saints who have 
carried out Thy will ! Remember not his earlier crimes, but by 
Thy mercy and manifold grace forgive him his sins and relieve 
him of the weight of guilt which oppresses him as a result of 
his previous godlessness; deliver him from the wrath of the 
saints and chosen servants of Thine whom he despatched with 
fire and the sword l For Thou art omnipotent and all things aTe 
possible to Thee, except that Thou art incapable of lacking 
mercy towards those who offer prayers of remorse to Thee with 
tears and sighs.’ 

These and many such supplications on his father's behalf did 
lodasaph offer up to God with tears in his eyes. Then he fell on 
his face and laid his hands on his father’s grave and said: ‘O 
Christ my God, who didst create my father before me and didst 
grant me to be born of his loins and didst vouchsafe to me the 
pleasure of living with him for as long as it was Thy will, and 
then didst afflict me by parting me from him when Thou didst 
decree it ! Abide by him as his comforter, O Lord, in the strange 
world of eternity and be my Protector and Saviour too when my 
own turn comes ! Show me the way to salvation according to 
Thy will, for Thou art gracious and beneficent ! ’ — He remained 
there at the tomb until the seventh day, praying for his father. 
And then he laid unsparing hands upon his treasures and distri- 
buted them to the poor, the feeble and the sick. 

64. On the eighth day lodasaph appeared and took his seat 
before the people according to his custom, and all his grandees 
with him; and he said: ‘Behold, King Abenes my father has 
found rest, just like any ordinary mortal from among the poorer 
classes, and no one could help him and save him, neither I 
myself nor any of you; and this day of reckoning must come 
upon each one of us also. You know what was my personal desire 
from the very first : however I was powerless to resist my father. 
But now I no longer have any excuse before God for not ful- 
filling my promise to join the number of the monks and adhere 
strictly to their way of life. So do you choose for yourselves a 


king to guide you in the will of God. Today by God’s grace no 
adversary of truth remains, and this you all know full well.’ 

But when the people heard this, they all arose and cried out 
with a loud voice: 'Let this not be, O king, and let our ears 
never hear such words again. Rather let us perish than that this 
should come to pass ! ’ Whereupon their voices grew louder and 
louder, until their shouts produced a regular tumult within the 

Seeing that they refused to consent, Iodasaph determined to 
get away secretly by means of a ruse. So he summoned that man 
who, as we mentioned earlier, was prepared to support Balahvar 
on the occasion of the debate arranged by the king with Nakhor, 
Balahvar’s double. This person was a kinsman of their royal 
house, and his name Barakhia. 

Iodasaph said to Barakhia : ‘Every man has need of the help 
of another in the day of trouble. You are my kinsman, and I 
will confide my secret in you and also entrust you with a great 
undertaking, if it be the Lord’s will. Accept now this charter 
addressed by me to the people and to my princes concerning 
your accession to the throne, and I shall depart and join my 
brethren and serve Christ my God in their company. If you 
refuse to perform this service for me, then you will cease to be 
any kinsman of mine.’ 

Barakhia answered and said to him: ‘You have not made a 
fair decision, O king, for it is written : “Love thy neighbour as 
thyself.” 1 But you have chosen for yourself the better thing, 
and intend to ruin me. If regal estate be a blessing, then why do 
you not go on reigning ? For just as a child weeps for its absent 
mother, so all your subjects are crying out for you to stay by 
them. But if it is preferable to quit the transitory world and 
seek after the eternal, why are you choosing this course for 
yourself and casting me into perdition ? Do you wish to encom- 
pass your own salvation through my damnation? Rather let us 
both arise and depart together ! ’ 

65. When Iodasaph had listened to Barakhia’s words, he 
realized the justice of his objections and made no answer to him. 
But one nigbt he arose and left the palace, leaving behind on his 

! Matthew, xix. 19. 

* 7 * 


couch a charter addressed to the people, declaring: ‘Barakhia 
deserves to be king — set him upon the throne ! ’ This he did in 
order to avoid any popular upheaval over the succession to the 

Barakhia had already suspected what Iodasaph intended to 
do, seeing that the king returned no answer to his words. So he 
went forth and gathered together the princes and counsellors 
and told them what Iodasaph had said, warning them that the 
king had been planning to go away secretly. At this they arose 
in haste and pursued him by various routes. They found the 
blessed Iodasaph in a valley, holding up his arms aloft in the 
form of a cross and praying to God. When he saw them ap- 
proaching, he said to them: ‘Why are you making all this 
commotion? From now on I am no longer your king !’ 

By their weeping, those men obliged Iodasaph to return 
against his will; and they inundated his feet with tears. When 
they brought him to their city, the entire nation assembled, 
from the highest to the lowest, including women and children; 
and they surrounded him and besought him, weeping and cry- 
ing out : ‘God will hold you to account for our blood. If you do 
not remain with us, then we shall raise up the idols once more, 
and you will be responsible in God's eyes.’ 

But Iodasaph said to them : ‘Christ, who delivered you from 
the blindness of ignorance and showed you the true light of the 
knowledge of God, will Himself fortify your belief. I have 
already shown you what you must do, and you have received 
my teaching and eaten of the fruit of my labours. Henceforth I 
have no further obligation towards you for, according to the 
words of Saint Paul the Apostle, ‘I have finished the course’, 1 
and now I must look to my own salvation. And the discussion 
continued until the seventh day. Then Iodasaph uttered a vow 
that he would not remain there any longer, but would depart 
into the wilderness. 

When the people heard him utter this vow, they realized that 
they could not shake his resolve; for they knew his strength of 
will once he had decided on a course of action. Then they all 
came to Iodasaph with tears in their eyes and fell at his feet and 
embraced them and asked him about the future of the 

‘II Timothy, iv. 7. 




monarchy. And he said to them : ‘Barakhia deserves to be your 

But Barakhia began to weep and refused to consent. However 
he was powerless to prevail against the people and most of all, 
against Iodasaph himself. Then lodasaph took the royal signet 
ring and placed it upon Barakhia's hand; and he raised his eyes 
towards heaven in the presence of all the people, and said : ‘O 
Lord Jesus Christ, who didst come down from the bosom of the 
Father without being parted from Him, and wast made man for 
us men, and didst take on mankind's servile state from a maiden 
not yet wed, and deliver mankind from servitude to the devil — I 
praise and glorify Thee, O Lord and lover of men, because Thou 
hast saved me, Thine unworthy slave, and granted me the 
faculty of knowing Thee; and Thou hast filled my soul with joy 
through the conversion of my father and given me strength to 
glorify Thy holy name. Now make manifest again Thy benevo- 
lence, and help Barakhia, this brother of mine, that he may walk 
before Thee in a worthy and virtuous manner, and conduct 
himself before the face of the entire nation in accordance with 
his love for Thee.’ 

He addressed many such supplications to God, with his hands 
laid upon Barakhia's shoulders. Then he turned to Barakhia and 
said: ‘Behold I give you this exhortation and testament, O 
Barakhia, in the presence of God and of the entire nation. Let 
me not be exposed to blame through any conduct of yours. Just 
as you knew God before I did and served Him with a quiet 
spirit, strive now more zealously than I myself to make your 
perfect virtue manifest to God. Harbour no malice against any- 
one. Direct your speech solely towards the furtherance of God’s 
purposes. Follow not the vicissitudes of the times, nor promote 
schism within the faith of Christ; do not let your intellect be 
put out of joint by the pomp of your throne. Set not your hopes 
upon any other helper but God alone. Do not be puffed up if 
God satisfies your ambitions; do not stretch out your hand with 
intent to snatch some delight which does not belong to you. 
Faint not in furthering God’s purpose, nor deliver any verdict 
not in accordance with equity. Accept no corrupt gifts in return 
for false testimony. Deliver even the unrighteous if any appeal 
to you because of the heavy weight of their yoke. Do not subject 
your reason to the dictates of your flesh, nor leave your tongue 



without a curb. Do not rejoice at a foe's discomfiture, however 
evil he may be. Let not your mind be inflamed in moments of 
anger nor look upon anyone with guileful eyes, nor harbour 
dislike of anyone without just cause. Do not inflict vengeance 
on anyone of your own account, but only for the sake of vin- 
dicating God’s cause. Turn the poor not away empty from your 
gate, nor abandon anyone whose mind thirsts for the divine 
message. — These precepts I give you in the sight of God, and if 
you observe them, you shall live; if you reject them, God will 
hold you to account for breaking your vow. However, you may 
trust God, that He will not demand from you anything which 
exceeds your powers.’ 

And then lodasaph added : ‘May Our Lord God Jesus Christ 
be the beginning and the end of all your deeds. — Test out every- 
thing and choose what is best. Poverty which is not endured 
with patience is a bad thing, but still worse is wealth allied to 
arrogance. Seek goodness from God, for He is the mainspring of 
every virtue. Put a curb on your flesh and tremble with fear 
before God. Bridle your lust, so that you may not lose your 
mental balance. Let your wisdom be tempered by reason, that 
you succumb not to conceit; may your learning serve you as a 
lantern throughout life, and do not imagine yourself to be other 
than you are. Examine every alternative, and do what is correct. 
Look upon yourself as a wanderer, and cherish all those that 
wander. Draw nigh to the abode of those that fear God and 
shun the abode of the unrighteous. Do not gloat over a friend's 
discomfiture, lest you turn him into a rival who will one day 
laugh you to scorn. Be prepared to sacrifice yourself even unto 
death for God’s sake. If you observe these rules, you shall bring 
salvation to yourself and your people. Offer your observance of 
them as a spiritual sacrifice to God, and Christ himself will 
watch over and direct your doings. 

‘If you are certain that you are without sin in God’s eyes, 
then you need not forgive other men their sins; if however you 
know that you must yourself be judged, then you yourself 
should extend forgiveness to others. Like some merchant 
generous in his dealings, send on your oblations in advance, for 
God will repay charity with charity. To nobody will more be 
given than he has the capacity to appreciate. What treasure 



can you lay up for yourself more precious than charity ! There- 
fore give to the poor their fair share. 

'Let this world be your stock in trade; and if you dispose 
thereof, you yourself will be the gainer. For you will be giving 
away little and winning far more; you will lose what is transi- 
tory and acquire what is eternal. If you fail to exert yourself 
here below, your stock in trade will vanish away. Better a glut 
of goodness than a famine of it ! 

‘Be exalted in intelligence and not in lust, for the former lifts 
a man up towards God, and the latter hurls him down into the 
abyss. One who deems himself perfect is none the less far below 
the level of Christ’s precepts. It is better to listen to improper 
language than to utter it oneself. Do not count on the peaceful 
completion of your ship’s voyage until you reach port; for many 
a sailor’s craft has foundered in a calm sea, while many others 
have fortunately escaped the pounding of heavy waves and the 
terror of the hurricanes. Do not display excess of either fortitude 
or despair, 

‘Sell all your worldly belongings, and purchase for yourself 
Jesus Christ free of charge. For your possessions belong to you 
but a short time. If you find it hard to give away everything, 
then part with a portion of them. Rob the moth and the thief of 
their booty and thereby place God in your debt, for He will 
repay you with interest. In rags and tatters you will win God’s 
approval. Nobody is more sincere than a beggar, for he has no 
possessions other than his God; therefore purchase his favour by 
giving him alms. Be not ashamed if anyone calls you "Son of a 
rascal”, but only if someone calls you a rascal yourself. It is more 
important for a man to be virtuous himself than for him to be 
the son of a virtuous man, but himself a rascal. That is a curse 
indeed ! 

‘Act towards every man and every nation as you would wish 
them to act towards you. Beware of false friends; for a true 
friend is one whom not the wine-cup but the test of time 
attaches to you, and who will not speak merely to please you, 
but rather to benefit both your soul and your subjects. Such a 
friend is of inestimable worth, so that the love you bear him in 
your heart should never be exhausted, for it has been stated: 
"Render therefore to all their dues : tribute to whom tribute is 
due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to 



whom honour .” 1 Love has no boundary. One eye has need ot 
the other, for it can see everything, but itself it cannot see; like- 
wise one hand needs the help of the other, and one foot that of 
the other. 

‘In the same way, a king has need of a reliable counsellor. 
Subject every problem to careful trial, just as I was tried out by 
Balahvar. He gave me no guidance on earthly matters, but 
through the medium of spiritual guidance enabled me to manage 
even earthly affairs through God’s grace, as you can see for 
yourself. Likewise I give you first of all my spiritual testament, 
and only then hand over my earthly burden. If the devil tempts 
you to commit sin, say within your mind : “Everyone will get 
to know this!” Then you should feel shame at your own self. 
For nobody can waver from the path of righteousness except one 
who is spiritually sick through forgetfulness of God. So long as 
the sins a man commits are curable, he can be restored to health 
by the art of the physicians and cured by divine grace. When 
the disease has become more powerful than the remedy, the 
offending limb must be cut off and thrown away, lest it infect 
the whole body and do mortal injury to the soul. 

‘Every feeble and afflicted spirit, if it have little faith in God, 
is liable to fall into despondency and succumb to sinful impulses. 
Likewise a worm cannot gnaw through a strong tree, but only 
a soft and tender sapling. Everyone who yearns for the bliss to 
come despises this fleshly existence, as confinement within a 
narrow prison cell. We cannot aspire to receive God's gifts if 
we do not first purify ourselves; for no one pours fragrant 
essences and precious myrrh into a filthy pot. True fasting con- 
sists in abstinence from all evil, in keeping control over the 
tongue, restraining one’s temper, moderating the lusts, refrain- 
ing from tale-bearing, lies and taking God's name in vain, and 
avoiding all forms of sin, bearing in mind that to overcome the 
desires of the flesh only in extreme old age is no longer counted 
as a virtue. Nor is it praiseworthy to counteract evil, not by self- 
control, but solely through a plethora of good works. A 
righteous judge should resemble an archer who does not bend 
his bow too far, lest the arrow overshoot the mark, nor too 
little, lest it fail to reach the target; nor does he shoot his arrow 

1 Romans, xiii. 7. 



askew, lest it miss the mark altogether. On the contrary, he acts 
with just moderation and aims straight, so as to hit the centre 
of the target. 

‘We know from books that this world has been termed a sea, 
because the vicissitudes of life in it resemble the ocean billows. 
Treasures and wealth are insecure, as is even poverty itself. Both 
of them are eternally within a hair’s breadth of shipwreck; just 
as the sea changes in an instant from tranquil calm to stormy 
waves, and then reverts to calm again, so it is with the affairs of 
this world. Therefore you should be like a prudent sailor who 
does not trust the calm of the ocean, nor loses his grip and his 
self-confidence when the tempest bursts upon him. 

‘This is my parting message to you. And I pray to God for 
your sake and commend you to His mercy. May the God of 
peace, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, grant you to follow 
His will, and may the Holy Spirit be your guide and teacher, for 
to the Holy Trinity belongs glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ 

66. When the thrice blessed Iodasaph had completed this dis- 
course, he went out in haste and girt himself with the old gar- 
ment which he had received from Balahvar. And the people 
followed after him until nightfall, like sheep bereft of their 
shepherd, and sobbed bitterly with a loud voice, like children 
mourning for their father. 

And the blessed Iodasaph departed into the land of Sarandib 
in search of the holy Balahvar. After a two years' search, he 
found him dwelling in the mountains, still wearing the hair 
apron which Iodasaph had presented to him. When Balahvar 
caught sight of him, he came forth to meet him and they 
embraced each other and kissed one another with tears in their 
eyes and glorified God with great joy. And Balahvar enquired 
about what had befallen Iodasaph in the meantime. So the 
blessed Iodasaph told him everything which had happened right 
up to the last. And they gave thanks to God the three in one, 
glorified in one substance, who had granted to them both so 
great a victory, whereby they had won salvation for themselves 
and for countless other souls. 1 

67. After a few days had passed, the blessed Balahvar's end 

1 Note by the copyist : ‘Christ have mercy on the souls of Michael and 
David, Amen.’ 



drew nigh. When lodasaph saw that Balahvar’s death was at 
hand, he began to wail and bemoan and despair took hold of 
him. And he said to his mentor : ‘O father Balahvar, you have 
not given full effect to your love towards me! For you are 
departing to enjoy repose from the woes of this world, and 
leaving me all alone in great grief in a strange land. I know not 
how I am to live after you are gone, for although you have told 
me how to order my life, I have not had time to gain practical 
experience from you. Nor have I any desire to carry on living 
after you are dead.' 

The most blessed Saint Balahvar answered and said : ‘Fear 
not, lodasaph, for Christ our God is your helper ! Sorrow not at 
my parting but be glad, for I have been delivered from future 

‘Be glad, lodasaph, for you have disposed of the earth and 
acquired the heavens! 

‘Be glad, lodasaph, for you have become worthy of apostolic 
grace ! 

‘Be glad, lodasaph, for you have won many crowns of witness 
and of travail through your labours and feats of endurance ! 

‘Do not be downcast at this moment when you are harvesting 
and eating the crop which you have planted. Place your trust in 
God who will comfort you and not prevent you from seeing me 
again soon.’ (By this last remark Balahvar was giving lodasaph 
to understand that his own death was also nigh.) 

Then the holy father Balahvar passed away and entered into 
the presence of Christ. lodasaph laid his corpse, emaciated by 
monastic austerities undergone for Christ’s sake, in the grotto 
carved out in the rock wherein he used to dwell. And he sank 
into deep sorrow. From the excess of his grief he fell asleep, and 
saw in a dream certain men radiant with light coming towards 
him, and having a great quantity of crowns adorned with garnet 
stones and precious gems without number. But one of them had 
two crowns glittering more brightly than the others, being more 
brilliant even than the sun’s orb. And they said : ‘These are for 
you, lodasaph, because of the many souls which you have 
turned towards God.’ 

Now the man who bore the two crowns said : ‘One of these 
is for you, lodasaph, because of the great feats which you have 



accomplished, and the other is for your father, seeing that he 
has been converted and turned to repentance.’ 

Iodasaph was offended at this and retorted : 'What compari- 
son can there be between one who has merely repented, and 
one who has striven hard?’ 

Then Balahvar appeared to him and said: ‘Remember, O 
king’s son, what I once told you. — For now that you have verily 
become rich, you are miserly with this treasure of yours, and 
grudge it even to your own father!’ 1 

When Iodasaph awoke from his slumber, he was fortified in 

68. After some little time Iodasaph too passed away, and 
entered before Christ's presence borne on the wings of the spirit. 
And a certain holy man dwelling nearby came and laid Ioda- 
saph 's corpse by the body of Balahvar. Then he went to the land 
of Sholait and told King Barakhia everything which he had 

The king arose with a great multitude and came to that place 
together with his princes and bore away the bodies of both the 
saints, and enclosed them within urns adorned with gold. And 
Barakhia laid these relics within a hallowed church dedicated to 
the worship of the Holy Trinity, and exalted them with every 
mark of honour. Many who were rendered infirm by grievous 
ailments were delivered from them by these relics, which con- 
stantly wrought miracles. And the king and all the people saw 
this and glorified Christ our God, who readily grants success in 
all things to those who love Him; for to Him belong glory and 
honour, grace and adoration together with the Father who has 
no beginning and the Holy Spirit, giver of life, now and always 
and for all eternity, Amen. a 

* This refers to Balahvar’s remarks in Chapter 36, above: ‘ But I hope 
that if the Lord wills it, you too will become passing rich and that your fruits 
and your treasures may be multiplied. But then you too will become miserly, 
and not so ready to distribute them to all and sundry!’ 

1 Here follows in the manuscript a concluding note by the scribe: ‘O lovers 
of Christ, whichever of you light upon this sacred book, pray for the greatly 
sinful David, that God may forgive him his sins, Amen.’ 



Note; Since the Romance of Barlaam and Josaphat makes its 
appearance in most of the languages of mediaeval Christendom, a 
substantial number of books and articles have been devoted to it. 
Many of these are listed in the Catalogue of the British Museum, 
under the rubric : barlaam, Saint, of India. Professor H. Peri’s im- 
portant study of the Barlaam legend, published at Salamanca in 
1959, contains a bibliography of 378 items, while a further selection 
is given in D. M. Lang, The Wisdom of Balahvar, 1957, pp. 125-8. 
The list given below, which is selective, should be used in conjunc- 
tion with these publications. 

Abuladze, Bidzina, trans. Balavariani. Mudrost’ Balavara. (‘Bala- 
variani. The Wisdom of Balavar’, Russian version, with a preface 
by I. V. Abuladze.) Tbilisi, 1962. 

Abuladze, Ilia V., edit. ‘Balavarianis k'art’uli redak'tsiebi. 
{‘Georgian redactions of Balavariani’), Tbilisi, 1957. (Dzvdi 
k'art'uli enis dzeglebi, no. 10.) 

‘K'art'uli “Balavarianis” ert'i personazhis sakhelis dsarmomav- 

lobisat'vis.’ (‘Concerning the formation of the name of a personage 
in the Georgian “Balavariani” '), in Moambc (‘Bulletin’) of the 
Academy of Sciences of the Georgian SSR, vol. xxvm, no. 4, 1 962, 
pp. 511-13. 

ASvaghosa. The Buddhacarita, or. Acts of the Buddha, edit, and 
trans. by E. H. Johnston, 2 vols., Calcutta, 1935-6, 

‘The Buddha’s Mission and Last Journey’, in Acta Orientalia, 

vol. xv, Leiden, 1937. 

Budge, Sir Ernest Wallis, edit, and trans. Baralam and Yew dsef 
(Ethiopic text and trans.), 2 vols., Cambridge, 1923. 

Burkitt, F. C. The Religion of the Manichees, Cambridge, 1925. 
Der Nersessian, S. L’Ulustration du Roman de Barlaam et Joasaph, 
Paris, 1937. 

Devos, P. ‘Les origines du “Barlaam et Joasaph” grec. A propos de la 
these nouvelle de M. Nucubidze’, in Analecta Bollandiana, lxxv, 
fasc, 1-2, Bruxelles, 1957, pp. 83-104. 

DoLGER, Franz. Der griechische Barham-Roman , ein Werk des H. 
Johannes von Damaskos, Ettal, 1953. 



Francis, H, T. and E. J. Thomas. Jdtaka Tales, Cambridge, 1916. 

Harris, J. Rendel and J. Armitage Robinson. The Apology of 
Aristides, Cambridge, 1891, ( Texts and Studies, vol. 1, no. 1.) 

Henning, W. B. ‘Persian Poetical Manuscripts from the Time of 
RudakF, in A Locust's Leg: Studies in honour of S. H. Taqizadeh, 
London, 1962, pp. 89-98. 

Jghamaia, Ts. Todasap'is sagaloblis akhali varianti’ (‘A new variant 
of the hymn to Iodasaph’), in Khelnadsert'a institutis moambe 
(‘Bulletin of the Institute of Manuscripts’), hi, Tbilisi, 1961, 
PP- 35-57- 

Jones, J. J., trans. The Mahavastu, 3 vols., London, 1949-56. ( Sacred 
Books of the Buddhists.) 

Kekelidze, K. S. ‘Balavaris romani k'ristianul mdserlobashi’ (‘The 
Balavar romance in Christian literature’), reprinted in Etiudebi 
dzveli k'art'uli literaturis istoriidan (‘Studies in the history of 
Ancient Georgian literature’), vol. Vi, Tbilisi, i960, pp. 41-71. 

Lang, D. M. Article ‘Bilawhar wa-Yudasaf’ in Encyclopaedia of 
Islatn, new edition, pp. 1215-17. 

The Life of the Blessed Iodasaph: A New Oriental Christian 

Version of the Barlaam and Ioasaph Romance, in Bulletin of the 
School of Oriental and African Studies, London, xx, 1957, 

pp. 389-407- 

The Wisdom of Balahvar. A Christian Legend of the Buddha, 

London, Allen & Unwin, New York, Macmillan, 1957. (Ethical 
and Religious Classics of East and West, no. 20.) [With a biblio- 
graphy, and a study of the evolution of the Barlaam and Josaphat 
legend in oriental literature.] 

Leroy, J. ‘Un nouveau manuscrit arabe-chretien illustre du Roman 
de Barlaam et Joasaph’, in Syria, xxxii, 1955, pp. 101-22. 

Manselli, Raoul. ‘The Legend of Barlaam and Joasaph in Byzantium 
and in the Romance Europe’, in East and West, vil, no. 4, Rome, 
1957. PP- 331-40. 

Marr, N. Ya. ‘Agiograficheskie materialy po gruzinskim rukopisyam 
Ivera’ (‘Hagiographical materials from Georgian manuscripts on 
Mount Athos’), 2 pt., in Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniya Imp. 
Russfeago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva (‘Bulletin of the 
Oriental Division of the Imperial Russian Archaeological Society’), 
tom. 13, St Petersburg, 1901. 

‘Armyansko-gruzinskie materialy dlya istorii Dushepoleznoy 

Povesti o Varlaame i Ioasafe’ (‘Armenian and Georgian materials 
for the history of the edifying tale of Barlaam and Ioasaph’), in 
Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniya, etc., tom. 11, St Petersburg, 
1897-8, pp. 49-78. 


“Mudrost’ Balavara”, gruzinskaya versiya “Dushepoleznoy 

Istorii o Vailaame i Ioasafe” (‘The Wisdom of Balavar, a Georgian 
version of the edifying story of Barlaam and Ioasaph’), in Zapiski 
Vostochnago Otdelcniya, etc., tom. 3, St Petersburg, 1889, 
pp. 223-60. 

Milinda (Menander), King. Miliuda’s Questions, Vol. 1. Trans. 
I. B. Horner, London, 1963. (Sacred Books of the Buddhists. Vol. 

Nutsubidze, Shalva. K proiskhozhdeniyu grecheskogo romana 
‘Varlaam i loasaf (‘On the origin of the Greek romance of 
Barlaam and Ioasaph’), Tbilisi, 1956. 

Peeters, Paul. ‘La premiere traduction latine de “Barlaam et 
Joasaph’’ et son original grec’, in Analecta Bollandiana, xlix, 
1931, pp. 276-312. 

Peri (Pflaum), Hiram. ‘Der Religionsdisput der Barlaam-Legende, 
ein Motiv abendlandischer Dichtung’, Salamanca, 1959. (Acta 
Salmanticensia, etc., tom. xiv, no. 3.) [With a bibliography, 
pp. 223-62, of 378 items.] 

Qaukhchishvili, Simon. Bizantiuri literaturis istoria. (‘History of 
Byzantine literature’), Tbilisi, 1963. 

Rehatsek, E., trans. ‘The Book of the King’s Son and the Ascetic’, 
in fournal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1890, pp. 119-55. 

Rhys Davids, T. W., trans. Buddhist Birth-Stories (Jataka Tales), 
revised edition, London, 1925. 

Rosen, Viktor R., trans. Povest’ 0 Varlaame pustynnike i Io safe 
tsareviche indiyskom, [translated from the Bombay Arabic version 
and published posthumously] under the editorship of I. Yu. 
Krachkovsky, Moscow, 1947. 

Runciman, Sir Steven. The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the 
Christian Dualist Heresy, Cambridge, 1947. 

Tarchnisvili (Tarkhnishvili), Michael. ‘Les deux recensions du 
“Barlaam” georgien’, in Le Museon, LXXI, Louvain, 1958, 
pp. 65-86. 

‘Le roman de Balahvar et sa traduction anglaise’, in Orientalia 

Christiana Periodica, xxiv, no. 1-2, Roma, 1958, pp. 83-92. 

Wolff, R. L. ‘The Apology of Aristides — A Re-examination’, in 
Harvard Theological Review, xxx, 1937, pp. 233-47. 

‘Barlaam and Ioasaph’, in Harvard Theological Review, xxxn, 

1939, pp. 131-9. 

Woodward, G. R. and H. Mattingly, edit, and trans. Barlaam and 
Ioasaph, London, 1914, etc. (Loeb Classical Library.) 

Zotenberg, H. ‘Notice sur le livre de Barlaam et Joasaph’, in 
Notices et extraits des mss. de la Bibliotheque Nationale, xxvin, 
Paris, 1886. 



Abenes (Abenner), king of India, 
derivation of his name, 37; with- 
stood by Iodasaph, 44; redeemed, 46; 
his original wickedness, 53; perse- 
cutes the Christians, 54; birth of his 
son, Iodasaph, 59; builds a separate 
palace for Iodasaph, 60; allows him 
to ride outside, 67; learns of 
lodasaph’s conversion, m; murders 
a band of hermits, 127; reasons with 
Iodasaph, 128; arranges a mock 
debate on the faith, 137; welcomes 
the pagan hermit Thedma, 141; 
tempts Iodasaph with beautiful girls, 
14;; divides his kingdom with 
Iodasaph, 149; converted to Chris- 
tianity, 163; surrenders his entire 
realm, 165; repents and dies, 170 
Abukura, trans. by Euthymius the 
Iberian, 40 

Abuladze, Professor I. V., 11-13, 79, 96, 

Adish Gospels, 32 

Ahmadiyya movement in Islam, 11 
Albigensians, medieval sect, g 
Antwerp, 9 
Arabian Nights, 90 

Arabs, Arabic, 11-13, 20-21, 24, 27, 
28-30, 32-4, 36-g, 44. 5?> 64, 71- 78, 
86, 88, 90-91, 96, 135 
Araches, see Rakhis 
Aristides, Apology of, inserted into the 
Greek redaction, 32, 139 
Armenia, Armenian language, 33, 39 
Armenian version of Barlaam romance, 

Arsenius, Epistles of, 34 
Athos, Mount, 12 

Baghdad, 90 

al-Bahwan, a heathen sorcerer, see 

Baisam, King, 13; 

Balahvar, a holy hermit, hears of 
Iodasaph’s desire for enlightenment, 
44, 71; arrives from Sarandib, 71; 
gains entry to the palace, 73; 

preaches to Iodasaph in parables, 
73-97'» describes his ascetic way of 
life, 113-16; exchanges garments with 
Iodasaph, 117; takes leave of him, 
119-20; hunted in vain by King 
Abenes, 123; rejoined by Iodasaph, 
178; dies in holiness, 179 
Barakhia, a Christian; Iodasaph’s friend 
in time of need, 128; attends the 
mock debate, 137; chosen by Ioda- 
saph to succeed him as king of India, 
172; declines but is obliged to accept, 
174; recovers the relics of Balahvar 
and Iodasaph, 180 

Barlaam, a holy hermit, see Balahvar 
Belial, 43, 47 

Beridze, Professor Vakhtang, 17 

Bilauhar, see Balahvar 

Blake, Professor Robert P., 23, 26, 34 

Bodhisattva, 9-13 

Boissonade, J. F., 19 

Bombay, 21 

Boyce, Prof. Mary, 12, 34-5, 88, 127 
Buddha, Gautama, 9-13, 19, 69, 89 
Budhasaf (Bodisav, Budasaf), see Ioda- 

Burton, Sir Richard, 90-91 
Byzantine Christianity, 13 
Byzantine literature, 26, 40 

Cairo, refuse mounds near, 91 
Caliphs of Baghdad, ‘Abbasid, 20 
Cathars, medieval sect, 9 
Caucasian Iberia, 33 
Caucasus, 12 

Central Asia, 12-12, 20, 88 
Ceylon (Sarandib), 29, 71, 178 
Chita, Georgian scribe, 101 
Ctesiphon, 27 

David, King of Israel, 4;, 147 
David, Georgian scribe, 70, 92, 100, 121, 
170, 178 

Der Nersessian, Professor S„ 17 
Devos, P., Bollandist scholar, 25 
Doge of Venice, 9 
Dolger, Professor Franz, 25 


Elias, the Prophet, 47 
Ethiopia, 11 

Euthymius, Saint, the Georgian, trans- 
lator of the Barlaam romance, 12, 22, 
30, 38-40 

al-Fifmst, Kitab, 21 
Filantin, King, 13; 

Filliozat, }., 64 
Foley, Mr Tom, 10 
Four Omens, 9, 69 

Garitte, Professor G„ 13. 25, 34 
George, Saint, the Hagiorite, 37, 39-40 
Giorgi, see George 
Great Renunciation, of Gautama 
Buddha, 10 

Greece, Greek, 33, 36-41 
Gtegoire, Professor Henri, 25 

Halkin, Father F„ Bollandist scholar, 

Harun al-Rashid, Caliph, 11, 90 
Henning, Professor W. B., 12, 88, 89 
Hommel, F„ 21, 22 

Iberia, Caucasian, 33 
Iceland, lx 

Idols, Idolatry, 96-7, 137-44, 163-6 
India, Indians, 9-11, 19, 37, 43, 33, 64, 
i2i, 153 

loasaph, see Josaphat 
lodasaph (loasaph, losaphat), Saint, 
Prince of India, derivation of his 
name, 29; hymn to, 43-50; his birth, 
59; prediction that he will be a holy 
man, 60; confined in a palace apart, 
60; his intelligence and merit, 65; 
pines to leave the palace, 66; sallies 
forth and sees deformed and senile 
men, 68; frets and repines, 69-70; 
welcomes the holy Balahvar, 73; 
listens to his preaching and parables, 
73-116; exchanges garments with 
Balahvar, 117; fasts and prays. 121; 
argues with King Abenes, 128-37; 
emerges victorious from mock debate 
on the faith, 141; tempted by women, 
145-8; accepts half of his father’s 
realm, 152; excels as a ruler, 137; 
converts his father Abenes, 163; re- 
joins Balahvar in the wilderness, 
178; dies in holiness, 180 

Iran, Iranians, 20, 33-5 

Janaisar (Abenes), king, 37, 135 
Janashvili, M., 23 

lavakhishvili, Professor I. A„ 22, 34 
Jerusalem, 13, 23, 26, 43, 79, 87 
Jesuits, turn Barlaam story into plays, 9 
Jghamaia, Ts„ 37, 43 
John the Baptist, Saint, 47 
John of Damascus, Saint, 25, 41 
Josaphat, see lodasaph 

Kashmir, 1 1 

Kekelidze, Professor K. S., 20, 27-30, 36. 


Khakhanov, Professor A. S., 23 
Khusrau Anushirvan, King, 20 
King, Winston I., book on Buddhism 
criticized, 11 

Kitab Bilaubar wa-Budcisaf, 12, 21, 32. 

36, 64, 135 

Krachkovsky, Professor I. Yu., 20 
l.alita-vistara, 19 

Latin version of Barlaam romance, 21 
Leroy, Father Jules, 17 
Library of Congress, 26 
Limonarion, 26 

Logothetes, Simeon, called the Meta- 
phrast, 30 

Louvain, University of, 13 
Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, 45 

Mani, Manichaeans, 11-12, 13,88-9, 125 
Marr, Academician N.Y., 22-4, 29, 40- 


Merchant of Venice, The, 9 
Metaphrastes, Simeon, 30 
Michael the Sabaite, Saint and Martyr, 

Michael, Georgian monk, 120 
Michael, Georgian scribe, 159, 178 
Migne, Abbe J.P., tg 
Moschus, John, 26 

al-Nadim, Arabic bibliographer, 21 
Nakhor, a pagan hermit and sorcerer, 
in features like Balahvar, 123, 127-8, 

Nestorian Church, 20, 27 
Nikordsminda, church at, 17 
Nutsubidze, Professor Shalva, 25-6, 27 



Omens, the Four, 9, 69 

Parthia, Parthian, 34, 127 
Paul, Saint and Apostle, 173 
Peeters, Father Paul, 14, 34 
Pehlevi (Iranian) language and script, 
20-21, 29, 33-5 
Persia, Persian, 12, 33-5 
Philippines, 11 
Poland, 11 

Prochorus, Saint, the Georgian, ixo 

Qaukhchishvili, Professor Simon, 26, 
58, 96 

Rakhis, chief counsellor of King 
Abenes, derivation of his name, 29; 
his wily ruses, 122-3; catches a group 
of ascetics, 124; arranges mock 
debate on the faith, 127, 137 
Ratcha, district of Georgia, 13, 17 
Rosen, Baron V. R., 20, 22, 64 
Runciman, Sir Steven, 125 

Saba, cloister of Saint, 40 
Saba, Georgian monk, 120 
Salvator, church of Saint, in Antwerp, 

Sarandib (Ceylon), 29, 71, 178 
Satan, 90, 104, 135 
Sebastian, King of Portugal, 9 
Seleucia, 27 
Senaar, 29 

Shabakhna, King, 13; 

Shakespeare, William, 9 
Shawilabat, see Sholait 
Sholait, 29, 53 

Simeon Logothetes, sumamed the 
Metaphrast, 30 

Syria, Syriac language, 20, 24, 27-8, 33, 

Talzin, King, 135 
Taqaishvili, Professor F:., 22 
Tarkhnishvili, Father Michael, 25, 32-s 
Tbilisi (Tiflis), 12-13 
Thedma (Theudas), a notable sorcerer, 
29; exposes Iodasaph to temptation, 
142-5; converted to Christianity, 

Thomas, Saint and Apostle, 28, 153 
Tolstoy, Count Leo, 9-10 
Tsereteli, Professor Giorgi, 13 
Turkish language, 20 

Venice, Doge of, 9 

Wolff, Professor R. L., 24 

Yuz Asaf, 11 

Zadan, tutor to Iodasaph, 110-12, 121-2 
Zangwill, Israel, 7 
Zoroaster, Zoroastrianism, 89 
Zotenberg, H„ 21-2, 25